One of the most striking quotes from the social platform behemoth Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg was that by age 30 a technology employee is old, slower, less likely to be innovative, have any world changing effects in the tech world. The irony in his statement is not lost given that he’s turned 30 a while ago, but the point is that, in truth he is right. Most of the tech world changing personalities has made their debut and their at times cataclysmic changes, at relatively young ages.
But, while these few high power individuals might want to believe that it was them actually leading to these changes.
The truth is that the keys for tech evolution have been in the hands of the masses, and not everyone equally, but in the hands of teenagers.
Teenagers are the ones controlling what direction user technology takes mainly because this is the most catalyzing group of people that live and breathe through technology and gadgetry. While technology does permeate the over 25 to 30 age group, it’s the teens that are always looking for the next cool thing, and they’re also the ones that hold no allegiance to older technology.
About 78% of all teens today have a cell phone, and about half of these use a Smartphone model (47%). Tablet use is not yet as popular amongst teens, with only about 1 teen in 4 owning and using one. However, when you compare this age group to the adult group, the density of users is much higher, basically the small teen population using as many as all the general adult population.
When it comes to computers, the statistics shown an even more dense usage pattern, with about 93 percent of all teens owning a computer and using it from home, and out of that, about 71 percent will have an internet access enabled PCs at home. Therefore, it can easily be seen why teenagers are such an important group for tech companies; they are the arrow head in terms of usage and they actively look for the next best thing.
Take for instance tablet use; while tablets have become wide spread after the iPad was introduced, it was Microsoft that had actually tried to push this type of computer platform onto the market a while ago, but because the gadget was not seen as cool, trendy, cutting edge, and it never got to the teens, it did not permeate into the mass market.
However, today teens are the ones that have popularized the tablet, and even if it’s still second place after smart phones in terms of mobile computing, it’s density compared to adult usage is still pretty high up.
Cool and uncool gadgets; how do teens choose their gadgets?
Trends and public perception about certain gadgets have always fluctuated in terms of gadgetry; however, again, teens are the ones that are decision makers in this field, with a higher impact on the medium than anyone else. Very interestingly, 65% of all teens that purchase a gadget online, will also look information up on the next model of that gadget, smartphone, tablet or whatever else. So, more than half the teens are always actively looking for the next best thing, pushing companies to keep up the race for better tech gadgets.
What is interesting is that at the formative teen age, while on the outside teens want to appear rebellious and unique, they are the ones that care about trends and appearance more than any other group. Thus, the social pressure to adhere to the group is what will shape what gadgets will be the cool, “in” ones, regardless, at times of quality, usability and so on.
Teen tech adoption is driven by incompatible desires, for mass availability and privacy
For instance a study has shown that while Facebook was the teen social network of choice, once it got to be used by older users, parents, grandparents, teachers, etc, many teens have chosen to migrate to other more obscure mediums. So, what this shows is that there are two factors affecting their choice; one is fitting in, which makes teens take on technology that is accepted by the age group, and on the other, the need for privacy and for a medium that is not free for all, that is not all inclusive.
Fickle, yes, but these trends can be easily predicted, to a point, and companies will use marketing and other tools to drive the technology to be liked by the teens, because this is the easiest way to create a very large user base.
Also, what this does for technology is make it easier to use; one definition of cool as represented by teens, in regard to tech, used to be ease of use and cool interfacing, as well as immediacy. This has probably driven the evolution of smart phones more than any other influencing factor, and it can be said that touch interfaces have been driven to become faster and more reliable due to teens embracing the technology immediately.
Google Glass vs. the smart watch
The other side of teen technology influence is that teens tend to make up their mind immediately about a gadget or technology; take for instance Google Glass; while the developers might have thought their eye-wear kit to be modern and fashionable, teens have found it cumbersome, very expensive and geeky in a bad way; the result? It did not catch on. Instead, the miniature smart-watches, deemed cool, relatively cheap and more or less useful have exploded, as teens have adopted them as their technology.
And so, technology adoption and evolution is driven consistently by the youngest adopters, by teenagers, who are the fastest to jump the wagon to the newest of technology and gadgetry, and thus, they are the ones that set the trends in tech.