Over the Holidays, my wife and I had some friends stay with us. During their visit, their teenage child spent a lot of the weekend playing with a smartphone. Our attempts to entertain the teenager, suggesting a pick-up soccer game, a hike, or just go out and get some fresh air were not well-received. It made me think – when I was a kid, I WANTED to be outside all day. I didn’t need to be asked. I get it – that might not be cool anymore. Maybe it wasn’t cool then either. Nobody told me it wasn’t cool, so maybe the joke was on me.
In my October 8 blog post, The Smartphones Are Taking Over!, I discussed that we are all becoming increasingly reliant on our mobile devices for phone conversations, checking email, surfing the web, online banking, listening to music, playing games and checking/updating social networking sites. During our friends’ visit, we discussed how smartphones are used by teens, specifically. I was struck by the fact that for teenagers, mobile devices are social lifelines. Without one, they would have to resort to speaking to one another, severely limiting their ability to thrive socially. Apparently talking is old school. For those teens that have smartphones, their social presence does not revolve around any one platform. Applications such as Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr, to name a few, are used concurrently. Communications occur largely via text, photos and video.
The Pew Research Center confirmed this in their research paper Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Between September 25 and October 9 of 2014 and again between February 10 and March 16 of 2015, Pew conducted a survey with teenagers between 13 and 17 years old to better understand their social media platform use. The survey showed that 92% of teens go online daily – with 24% using the Internet “almost constantly;” 56% going online several times a day; and 12% logging on at least daily. Of course, teens’ access to social networking platforms is facilitated by smartphones – nearly three-quarters of teenagers own or have access to a mobile device. Many of them do not have access to a personal computer at home. The study also found that 71% of teens use more than one social network site, though they report that there is some overlap of friends across platforms.
Key Takeaway: This post is more of an observation than an investment commentary. My investment takeaway is similar to that of my October 8 post – the winners and losers in the emerging mobile landscape continue to evolve and our goal is to invest with the managers best positioned to back the winners in this continually evolving space. My observational takeaway is that the way teenagers communicate has changed A LOT since I was a kid.
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