December 6, 2005 10:34 pm

‘Teens more tech savy than ever before’

Teenagers are using more technology at a younger age to connect with more people than ever before, according to a study of young consumers prepared by Forrester Research, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based market research company.

The report, based on a survey of more than 5,000 US and Canadian consumers aged between 12 and 21, confirms that today's youth are more tech-savvy and communications-orientated than ever before.

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Eighty-seven per cent of 15-year-olds use instant messaging, while nearly half of 12- to 14-year-olds have a mobile phone, and more than two thirds of all respondents own PCs, DVD players, home stereos, games consoles or handheld video games.

The findings are part of Forrester's most comprehensive analysis of young consumers' technology attitudes and adoption to date.

The company suggests the findings are crucial to understanding the dramatic change in marketing and advertising that has many executives wondering how to tap into the power of the teenage “technology everywhere” generation.

“Marketing executives have been staring in wonder at their own tech-savvy children and asking: ‘Are all teenagers as wired as my own kids?'” said Chris Charron, vice-president and research director at Forrester Research.

“The answer is Yes. We are seeing a generation of young people for whom technology is not just a nice-to-have, it's a critical part of their lives.”

As part of the study, Forrester surveyed young consumers about their use of various devices, gaming, online activities, music downloads and file sharing, communication technologies and attitudes toward media and advertising.

They found that young people are communication junkies. Eighty-three percent use IM (Instant Messaging) compared with just 32 per cent of online adults. More than three out of four young consumers have a mobile phone.

Digital music players top the device wish list of young people, and entertainment wins their online time. Twenty-five per cent of young consumers said they plan to purchase an MP3 player in the next 12 months. And young consumers spend almost 11 hours per week online, while nearly one in five of the youngest of this group (ages 12 to 17) spend 20 hours or more per week online.

As Forrester points out, young consumers represent the social marketing vanguard. Fifty-two per cent say they rely on recommendations from friends or family when making a purchase, compared with just 34 per cent of adults.

The study also dispels a myth about young consumers and advertising. Young consumers are more open to advertising than are their parents, although both generations are skeptical of the ads that they encounter.

“Young consumers have no preconceived notions of what advertising should be,” said Mr Charron. “They have no problem with the lines between advertising and editorial being blurry. Because they have grown up to be more self-reliant in a digital environment, they have confidence in their ability to distinguish between the two.

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