How Teenagers – and Adults – Consume Media

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This is the unabridged, non-edited version of an article published at
The Morgan Stanley report entitled “media and the Internet, how teenagers consume media” is one of the most striking examples of instant information circulation on a global scale. Matthew Robinson — a 15 year-old trainee who was asked to put together a report on how his peers were using the media — no longer needs to work on his online reputation. In a flash, his report was on everyone’s lips (on everyone’s desktop rather) and widely used as a perfect representation of generation Y usage of media and – especially – the Internet.

On the contrary, the fact that a survey of one might be considered a representative sample of a 60 million population is a rather tale-telling instance of how adults, and not teenagers, have become used to consume the media. Call me old-fashioned, but I think I can highlight a few issues with regard to how information is handled in this report.

  1. This report is often taken at face value as in this review by the Guardian, with no analysis or questioning of anything that is said in the report,
  2. Teens are different from adults, but does that mean that their tastes/behaviours won’t change?
  3. Marketing has taught teenagers to behave as consumers, hence their feeling – more acquired than innate – that they are a race apart. But in fact they aren’t. Teenagers are but adults to be, and should be treated as such, not revered as if youth was meant to be eternal,
  4. Generation Y – a definition so broad it means nothing – is said to be more IT and especially Internet savvy than their predecessors. As a matter of fact, an in-depth (and confidential) survey carried out by Orange amongst a sample of 15 year-olds a couple of years ago showed that this is not quite true. Teenagers are actually better at using certain technologies such as instant messaging and they practice multi-tasking heavily – not forcibly a good thing
    the Guardian says – but aren’t more au fait with IT than their elders and when they hit trouble, they tend to call … their parents to the rescue,
  5. Most real bloggers aren’t teenagers, and many of them are in the 40-50+ range; I can testify,
  6. As a consequence of the above, Twitter is also used by the same people who use it mostly to publicise their content and share resources with their network and also a surrogate instant messaging system between members of that network,
  7. As a result too, Twitter is indeed a tool for grown-ups and in that, I do believe Matthew Robson is right. Just because teenagers don’t use it now doesn’t make it less interesting however,
  8. (a mere assumption I admit but it seems) the style of this report has little to do with teenage counterculture and a lot to do with Morgan Stanley,
  9. This report is assuming that enterprises should fear teenagers who will join their ranks in the coming years. However:
    1. By the time they do, they won’t be teenagers anymore, some of them will even have children,
    2. By then, most of them will have learnt how to behave in the enterprise world,
    3. When Mr Robson hits the job market, that is in approximately 10 years from now enterprises will also have evolved by dint of user pressure, young and old, who want greater freedom in the workplace and have even bought their own technology to bypass corporate rules (a concept known as BYOC),
  10. Lastly, may I venture to ask who Matthew Robson is anyway? I wasn’t really able to trace him, even in facebook which I guess cannot be regarded as 19th century technology. So, despite my introductory comment, he might yet have to work on his online reputation, unless this too is an old-fashioned concept.

What makes “information” stand out from “data” and cyber babble? Information occurs any time resources are cross checked, double-checked, and when investigations have taken place. Information also happens when authors’ identities have been disclosed (even The Economist’s editors can be traced through the online media directory complete with pictures and contact details).

Don’t be mistaken, and don’t blame the Internet for the fact that adults – and later generation Y who are in fact just adults to be – can no longer tell the difference between information and noise. Blame the people who use the Internet instead.

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