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I moderated a panel today of Silicon Valley high schoolers, talking about their impressions of technology and entrepreneurship. They were a highly articulate and tech-savvy bunch — very doubtfully an accurate statistical sampling — but very fun to talk to. Some tidbits: One girl told the […]

I moderated a panel today of Silicon Valley high schoolers, talking about their impressions of technology and entrepreneurship. They were a highly articulate and tech-savvy bunch — very doubtfully an accurate statistical sampling — but very fun to talk to. Some tidbits:

One girl told the audience, “I would be lost, helpless, and alone without the Internet. I don’t know how you people survived without it!”

When asked what they would change about technology, perhaps the geekiest one of the bunch said “More USB ports.” She continued, “I always think it’s kind of cruel when somebody has to choose between their mouse and their printer.” Others said they’d like their Internet connections to be faster or more reliable, and some wished for more computing power.

One kid, the most outspoken and rebellious of the bunch, said he had lost two phones in the last month — one left on the top of his car, and the second broken when he leaned on it while playing pool. Of course, later, when asked what piece of technology he couldn’t live without, he said he would die if he lost his cell phone.

Across the board, the panelists said they thought the burden should be on students to protect their privacy, rather than teachers or parents. Kids should make smart decisions about what to share online, they said.

Two admitted to cheating on tests using their cell phones. Many said they had developed ways to get around their school computers’ proxies blocking non-academic sites. Most said they kept their phones throughout the school day, and all said they carried iPods with them.

The panelists were confused by an audience question about converging devices and mashed-up services. “Mash?” one girl asked, and another pressed the audience member to define the term, which he had trouble doing. Once they talked it out, the first girl said she didn’t think services needed to be combined, relating a story about when she and a friend took 30 seconds to realize they were talking to each other on the phone and AIM at the same time.

As for MySpace? It did appear to be out of favor, with only one panelist admitted to using it regularly. Most of the students attested their main social network was Facebook, and said it would take a lot for them to change to a competitor. Only if a new service had extremely cool features that they couldn’t get elsewhere and all their friends were already on it would they change, was the consensus. There you go, straight from the mouth of the ‘social network generation.’

  1. And that, is where it matters the most..straight from their mouths.

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  2. Very, very awesome! I like how the consensus is that the teens would switch to another social network if it provided better features (and if their friends are on it). I guess it just goes to show that a social network really can’t lock in their userbase.

    I think social networks should begin focusing on existing relationships rather than the facilitation of new ones: Strengthen what already exists. I know who my network is, all you need to do is make it easier for me to communicate with them. MySpace was good for meeting new people, but now I’m tired of “meeting new people” – I just want to efficiently communicate with those whom I already know.

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  3. As a 17-year-old High School Junior who, hopefully, is “highly articulate and tech-savvy”, I would have to agree with what the panel said. Indeed, most of it is very true, though I would disagree with the part about cheating with cell phones- I don’t know of anyone personally that cheats or has cheated using a cell phone. Why that is I don’t know, maybe our different schools, different programs, or different regions have different cultures, but whenever the matter of cheating comes up in a discussion the general consensus seems to be that cheating with a cell phone is too time-consuming or takes up too much energy; basically, a lot less efficient than traditional methods.

    I would completely agree with the fact that most of us get around school internet filters, and most of us find nothing wrong with it; we’re not dodging the filters in order to look at porn and download music, we’re dodging the filters to get to blocked sites like wikipedia.

    We do tend to keep our phones and iPods with us, though we’re not supposed to have either.

    I’m not surprised that the panel was confused by the question about converging devices and mash-ups, it’s not something that you would generally talk about [among teens.] After all, we would be more likely to discuss specific services than a trend of mashing-up services. We’re more likely to compare gaim["pidgin"] to AIM than to discuss gaim’s ability to integrate multiple IM services.

    MySpace IS out of favor, for quite a few reasons. For one, facebook has no ads, while myspace is loaded with them. For another, myspace tends to have frequent server problems and we often can’t log in or use it. The fact that myspace is so open in what people can put in their profile means that some profiles are loaded with bandwidth-sucking content- content that is poorly laid out and often useless. Facebook is clean, streamlined, easy to use, ad-free, and always running. Plus, facebook allows “wall-to-wall” views of conversations between users, whereas myspace doesn’t allow this easy view. Instead we have to scroll through everyone’s comments in two different windows or tabs. MySpace was a good “gateway drug” to social sites, but Facebook is the drug of choice. And yes, we do need to have our friends on a social network for us to join it; Orkut is great, but who else is on there from our generation? You can’t expect us to waste our time with something new if it hasn’t proven itself or shown itself to be potentially awesome. You guys created the instant gratification information age, and we’ve grown up with it. Most social networks don’t offer anything new or unique enough for us to bother.

    straight from the mouth of a member of the social-network generation =]

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  4. Shirish Jamthe Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    Great article and great comments Jonathan.

    I am curious to see how many years today’s facebook users will stay with facebook. They may want to not change to another social-network cycle but the generation that is just getting introduced to social networks may choose a competitor. My guess is 4-6 years then users will jump to linkedin like job network.

    This is just the beginning of social-networks.

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  5. Groovy, man, groovy. ;-)

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  6. Facebook is probably the next Google. Remember ppl spend only 5 percent of their time online searching. the remaining time is goldmine for advertisers.

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  7. Great article, there needs to be more out there on kids and technology, instead of “myspace is the devil” on CNN, what about the positive side of things.

    Good to see you moderating a panel of teens, I really enjoyed this read.

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  8. @the first girl said she didn’t think services needed to be combined, relating a story about when she and a friend took 30 seconds to realize they were talking to each other on the phone and AIM at the same time.

    @One girl told the audience, “I would be lost, helpless, and alone without the Internet. I don’t know how you people survived without it!”

    Very funny…. lolzzz …

    @liz .. ru tryin to prove by this article that gals r too stupid to use this tech. … u have listed all the funny(stupid) things said by gals only..

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  9. yawn. if you wanted to know what teenagers think about technology, you should have asked them here. sounds like you got some pretty mediocre insights.

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  10. Jonathan, thanks for your comment. I think it’s pretty cool to see people like you and the panelists sharing their experiences in their own voices, rather than being treated like specimen in a lab. (I was worried about that happening with the set-up of the panel, but was happily surprised that it wasn’t the case.)

    gagan, now that is just silly. There are plenty of comments from both genders in the story.

    seth, I think you might underestimate the age of our readers, but they’re definitely welcome to comment here!

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