Why Teens Can’t Survive More Than a Day without a Smartphone

A large majority of adults depend on their smartphones for numerous tasks throughout the day, but how much do teens use their smartphones? Since I’m raising two teenagers, I felt that it was my duty to really understand:

  1. How much smarter both of my daughters are than me;
  2. How we continually need to adjust our marketing to resonate with millennials; and
  3. How I could share some insights on what I learned to all of my loyal readers.

According to an eMarketer report from August 2017, titled US Teens And Their Smartphones, internet users ages 13 to 17 feel they could not get through more than a single day without their smartphone. (For the record, I know many adults who also cannot get through the day without their smartphones.) The number of teens with a smartphone is on par with the total adult population who use them. I would imagine that would change in a few years as technology keeps improving, and more kids are “born” with phones in their hands.

Video Consumption:
With teens, their smartphone serves so many more purposes beyond communication. It literally fills hours of their day. For example, “seven in 10 US teen smartphone users spend at least three hours a day viewing digital video,” says eMarketer. 95% of teens surveyed consume YouTube, whereas only 69% use Instagram. Facebook tied for third place with Snapchat at 67%. What should this tell you? It should outline the importance of video in your marketing plan.

By nature of when they were born, teens are mobile natives, which creates an even bigger difference between how they interact with their smartphones compared to older millennials. Smartphones are an essential part of life for them. Case and point: A friend has two year old twins and they already know how to take pictures on a smartphone. Enough said, right?

Instant Gratification:
Teens use their all-purpose devices for everything from communicating to “liking”, “snapping”, shopping, ad avoidance and more. The smartphone camera has become central to their interactions, leading to the rise of platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. The camera feeds the teen appetite for instant gratification. Snapping a pic or taking a video in the moment means posting and getting an instantaneous response from peers.

Man, remember the days when you couldn’t ask Google, or Alexa something? And it actually took time to research something? Those days are over.

What I interpret as my daughter’s short attention span is actually more of an impulse to get this instant gratification. “It’s not that they have attention deficits,” said Jane Buckingham, founder of consumer insights firm Trendera. “They’re attention discriminant. And they can decide in 3 seconds whether something is going to appeal to them or not.” We have our work cut out for us.

In-Store Shopping:
eMarketer says a majority of teens buy digitally, and half of them are buying with their smartphones. This is where a streamlined eCom mobile site is essential. Have you been shopping in store and noticed young teens standing around on their phones? You might think they are just “playing,” but chances are they are using that device to read product reviews and compare prices. It’s also common for them to use the camera to send photos of possible purchases to friends with a “What do you think?” message, or to use social media to help with their purchasing decisions. It’s a social occasion for them, like playing an online game together in different locations. If you have teenage boys, you especially know what I mean.

Which brings me to Wi-Fi. About 90% of teens surveyed said that, “a strong Wi-Fi signal when shopping is important to them.” This is in part because the apps they use require decent data speed. And 26% of the same group said that a free charging station would encourage them to frequent a store. Retailers, are you listening?

As parents (and marketers), it’s key to grasp how devices define the ways in which teens engage and communicate. They are the future and technology isn’t going away. It’s only going to get faster/smarter/better.

We understand marketing and technology, and the ways to reach different generations. Drop me a line, or if you’re feeling really cool, Tweet me @dotsonpaper, and I’ll share even more fun insights with you.

(Photo by Jim Dyson/Redferns via Getty Images)