Facebook & Mobile: Teens can’t live without em

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.’

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