I’m fascinated with how teenagers are using the Internet these days.
Teenage Internet use has reached 82% in the U.S. (for ages 12 to 17) and 43.5% of children ages 3 to 11 will use the Internet on a monthly basis in 2009.
That’s 32 million teenagers using the Internet regularly just in the U.S. — teenage Internet usage worldwide is likely more than 60 million.
I decided to do a very unscientific poll of teenage Internet usage: I asked my 18 year old nephew Miles and 15 year-old niece Ruby a set of very open-ended questions.
Here’s the Q&A:
Q: What’s your favorite Web site?
Ruby: StumbleUpon. We did it last night…we were too lazy to find a site ourselves. You can stumble upon art for instance.
Miles: I don’t have one…except ThemThangs.
Q: Do you use blogs?
Ruby: I use a lot of blogs…for photography and art. I can’t name any but I use them all the time.
For example, when I searched masquerade pictures on Google recently, I found blogs listed.
Miles: I don’t have one…but I sometimes read them.
Q: How do you feel about Facebook?
Ruby: I hate that it controls people’s lives. I’m only on it when my friends don’t have phones — because they will send me a message via Facebook instead…so then I check it.
It’s always in every conversation…you can’t avoid it. We were walking down the street yesterday and this girl said: “Did you get any turkeys in Farmville” (Farmville is a game on Facebook).
Someone was at school and said they had to go home cuz they had four turkeys in the oven.
Miles: I hate it…but everyone does it so…I guess it’s ok. I have one (a Facebook page).
Q: How do you feel about Twitter?
Ruby: I know people use it but I don’t have one. Not many kids use it.
Ruby: Some people get carried away with it…people use it to say that someone wrote an article…and that’s useful. And you can do it by phone so that cool.
But I heard about a husband tweeting about what he was eating for dinner….and that’s ridiculous.
Miles: I don’t use it…but I’ve heard people refer to it — I can see how it’s useful. Some of it is cool but I’m sure most of it is bullshit.
Q: How do you feel about MySpace?
Ruby: It’s life consuming for people but not essential — kind of a waste of time. Some friends use it to get in contact with bands.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the term “MySpace picture” is a new term” that kids use these days…if someone is taking a picture of themselves with a friend, they call it a “MySpace Picture” (even though the picture is not just for MySpace (it may be for Facebook)).
Miles: It’s outdated. The MySpace era ended…because of Facebook. People had MySpace’s and suddenly their headlines started saying: “Go find me on Facebook.”
I think Facebook is more innovative than MySpace…and it’s easier to use.
However, I like the creative side of [using] MySpace — they allow you to be more creative.
Q: How do you feel about Google?
Ruby: I like it. It’s very easy to work. Very efficient…and a lot of pictures.
Miles: It’s cool. Basically, anything I type in there I can find. Even with videos, there’s a video for every thing.
If I’m trying to look for song lyrics, for instance, I can type a variation of it and find it.
Q: How do you feel about Microsoft?
Ruby: That’s what Apple doesn’t run on, right? The one Bill Gates started, right? I don’t really like it — it’s not efficient. Too hard to work.
Miles: I don’t really use it at all. Earlier today, I said I wanted an xBox…and that is the only product from Microsoft that I want.
The only thing I currently use by them is Microsoft Word.
Q: How do you feel about Apple?
Ruby: I like it…though it’s frustrating that they come out with new things so often like the iPods and computers — it’s frustrating because you always want the new one.
It feels like it’ll never stop.
Miles: I like it a lot. Their products are all very cool-looking and simple…all state of the art and sleek.
Their computers are so easy…you just open it and use it. It’s very attractive.
With PCs, it’s very 90’s…shitty. If you’re all fried out on a computer, the Mac is easier to deal with than a PC. It’s more visually appealing.
Q: How do you feel about Bing (Microsoft’s new search engine)?
Ruby: I hate it. My school computers converted to it. The default search is Bing but I can’t stand it so I change it to Google. I’m so used to Google…Bing is hard to get used to.
Miles: I’ve seen the TV commericals about it…where they claim Google is random and inaccurate and Bing is more accurate. I don’t believe that.
The image search on Bing is not as easy to use. Google does just fine.
Q: How do you feel about Ebay?
Ruby: I’ve been using it…because I’ve been wanting some used things like clothes. If I had money, I’d buy these things…but I’m broke.
The two things I use it the most for are camera and clothing.
Miles: I used to use eBay but it’s frustrated when you are bidding on a product and then someone else wins with a skyrocketed price.
I prefer Craigslist.
How do you feel about Craigslist?
Ruby: I like it. I go on it for bikes…if I was going to buy a bike, I’d use it. But, again, I don’t have enough money.
Miles: It’s cool. I use it a lot to look at people selling bikes.
It gives me an idea of stuff I’d like to buy…price ranges for different things.
I like it more than eBay because you don’t have to bid…I can just meet a guy and get it.
How do you feel about Blackberry?
Ruby: I got mine awhile ago…the night I got it I got really mad about it because it made me like everyone else.
[my sister (her Mom) interjects at this point and says: “You can sell your BlackBerry then.” Ruby replies: “No, I do want it!”
Miles: For work and stuff it seems fine. It’s sort of a fashion thing for the girls I know.
Guys I know seem to prefer iPhones. I don’t understand Blackberries for teenagers.
I just don’t think you need [a smart phone]; plus they’re pricey…and I think they’re too distracting (for teenagers)
How do you feel about Wikipedia?
Ruby: I don’t trust it for English or History classes because the information can be false…but I use it for some other things.
Miles: I like a lot. I know people say everything’s fake…sometimes it disappoints me when I’m looking for something basic but most of the time I can try anything.
I like how some things are highlighted in blue…it’s referenced to another page — that’s a fun way to learn about stuff.
How do you feel about Digg?
Ruby: I’ve never heard of it.
Miles: What is it?
How do you feel about Yahoo?
Ruby: I used to use it for horoscopes and that’s it. I’ve never had a Yahoo account.
Miles: I don’t use it very much. I know people who do…but basically I was raised using Google as a search engine.
How do you feel about YouTube?
Ruby: I use it a lot…cuz I don’t have money to buy iTunes songs so I just watch the music videos on YouTube.
Miles: I like it a lot. It’s getting to the point where it’s like Google…you can type in virtually anything and it’s there.
Type in “How To,” for example, and you can find options for how to do anything. I’ll find myself on YouTube for hours.
I’ve figured out how to do math homework using it…people explaining equations.
And there’s crazy footage of accidents and other weird stuff.
Also, if you don’t want a buy a song on iTunes, you can just type it into YouTube and listen to it.
How do you feel about iTunes?
Ruby: I like it. It’s too over-priced though. They changed the songs to $1.29 and that’s too much…I’d rather buy a CD and upload them.
Miles: iTunes is cool. They just recently made it all new. I don’t like that as much maybe cuz I’m used to the old way.
But they don’t have everything…I understand how some bands just don’t put their songs on iTunes (like the Beatles).
But I’m really against downloading music online…because it’s totally killed record and CD-buying culture.
How do you feel about Amazon?
Ruby: It’s good for things you want cheap and don’t mind if they’re used. It’s a good site.
Miles: Amazon is cool…but I don’t use it cuz I’m not sure how it works. Is it just people like you and me selling stuff or real companies? (I told him both).
How do you feel about Flickr?
Ruby: A lot of my friends use it so I look at it when I’m at their house.
Miles: I like it…I don’t know how to work around it very well. Often times I’ll find myself on there because I found something on Google Images and I clicked on it.
Often times I find myself on there by mistake…but I still like it.
How do you feel about LinkedIn?
Ruby: I don’t know what it is.
Miles: I don’t know what it is.
How do you feel about AOL?
Ruby: It’s like Yahoo, right? A copy, right? I don’t have an account.
Miles: I don’t use it whatsover. Sorry. Is that a search engine also. I don’t know what it is.
If you owned the name Purchase.com, what would you do with it?
Miles: It sounds like another CraigsList or eBay or Amazon. It sounds like some place where you can buy stuff…but that’s sort of boring.
Or, what could be cool to give you a list of Web sites that are available for business-people to buy: Web sites people are trying to sell.