My local paper The Age has been running a fascinating series this week focusing on the life of fifteen years olds. Whilst the print version has made for a really interesting read, the online version of the paper has really shown up the opening gap between it and the paper format. This online version contains all of the text and images from the paper plus more. In this case the online Life At 15 report is far more powerful than the print equivalent. With some excellent multimedia clips featuring commentary from teens who are living the experience as well as from experts and others it explores the three themes of Alcohol, Sex and Technology.
The second fascinating aspect of the whole sequence is that technology, (and in this case predominantly the online environment) is rated as on a par with the other two topics in the life of teens. Listening to the media clips it is not hard to see why it rates so highly however it is tacit acknowledgment that many teens are highly technology driven.
Checking in on the clips it is fascinating to reflect on the differences in opinion, (and indeed the common ground), between the teens and the adults in their respective pieces. I fpund myself identifying quite strongly with teen Tom who shares, with his family contributing as well, his struggles with internet addiction. I have to admit that often I have fallen prey to the desire to keep up with the latest technology that I am interested in. Perhaps The Age should do a follow up piece looking at technology related addiction across the ages.
The suggestion by 15 year old Alexandra that she has “….never met a teenager that doesn’t have MySpace” is also a fascinating insight. This notion is further amplified with the support article titled The Virtual Generation. The finding from an MTV/MSN global survey of 1800 youths that “almost 40 per cent do not even notice the technology that enables it” speaks volumes for the ubiquity of technology.
The rest of the article contains many other thought provoking quotes and anecdotes. Though the article focuses on the nexus between the maturity of the teen and the sophistication that can attach to the (adult) interpretation of the interactions I wonder whether some of those characteristics are solely the province of the teen. The notion that “For girls, there is no bigger issue in cyberspace than the bruising slight of being pushed down or off someone’s “top friends” grading list – a particularly cruel quirk of MySpace given adolescent anxiety about popularity” seemed challenged the other evening when a colleague at school happily showed off her relatively new My Space paying particular attention to the list of friends she has.