Kids These Days -- Taking It Easy

Upon getting to author my first article for Engage:Teens, I asked my 14-year-old son, “What is something about teens you would like people to understand?” His response: “We’re lazy, and that’s okay.” 

On the surface, it sounds like an inflammatory stereotype and more like an adult misperception than a truth from the mouth of a teenager. Then, I realized that he meant teens today are going to find shortcuts and workarounds, and that’s okay. That doesn’t make them lazy in the derogatory (adult) sense of the word.

Pinned with monikers that include Generation M (for multitasking) and Generation ADD, today’s teens are about expedient utility.  

  • Learning. Ask any teacher today, from elementary to high school, about the importance of technology in learning, and you’ll probably hear it’s a valuable ally because it fits with the way kids take in information. At our house, YouTube videos are part of any study session, and online search is preferred to navigating a textbook. In our high school, online video is a favorite tool in “blended classes” that allow for two days a week of self-directed learning. 

  • Socializing.A picture truly is worth a thousand words if you’re a teen social media user. The platforms to watch are image- and video-centric, including Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat. According to the mobileYouth Show, Instagram recorded one million teen downloads in a single month last year. Even if Instagram experienced a user hit with its new terms of service, don’t expect it to lose traction with this audience. A recent survey by Posterous founder Garry Tan, in conjunction with Survata, found more teens (61%) using Tumblr than Facebook for several hours per week. The study also showed more teens than young adults regularly using Instagram and Snapchat.

  • Communicating. We’ve all heard a teen say (not text) OMG or LOL. These shortcuts are part of their vocabulary, even seeping into their writing at school. A study by Pew Internet indicated that nearly two-thirds of teens (64%) incorporate some informal styles from their text-based communications into their schoolwork, despite recognizing it could create a less than favorable impression.

  • Accomplishing.Ever heard of SixPackShortcuts? No? Ask a teen boy and I’ll bet you’ll get a different answer. Its promise of rapid achievement and its video instruction model are resonant with the crew shooting to look like the latest Abercrombie model.



Bill Gates is rumored to have said, "I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job … because he will find an easy way to do it." Whether correctly quoted or not, it’s a sentiment quite a few programmers endorse. Simplicity and ease is prized in programming — and prized by teens raised with technology.

What does this mean for brands looking to earn a slice of $43 million in teen spending, roughly $4,000 annually per teen? 

Keep it short.

Remember, teens are likely engaging in multiple simultaneous exchanges of information. Make sure they can get your message within the time and attention they will allot your brand.

Make it useful. 

Teens are tuned in to utility and their marketing b.s. meters are pretty sensitive. Give them an exchange in which they can easily see the benefit to them.

Help them achieve their goals.

It is not fair to call teens lazy, but I think my son’s observation was on-target. Even the most industrious teen grew up with calculators, computers and on-demand entertainment. Expediency and efficiency are the norms even when ambitions are big. Help teens see your brand as one that knows what they want and can help them get it … fast.

3 comments about "Kids These Days -- Taking It Easy".
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  1. Clay Smythe from Memphis University School, February 13, 2013 at 12:13 a.m.

    Working with young people as a professional, as well as being a young father, I read this piece having affirmed much of what I experience with youth culture.

    Generalizing with sweeping charges of "laziness" is foolish because regularly I see impressive displays of serious dedication, creativity, thoughtfulness, even proto-maturity in youth decisions.

    However, while this "Take it easy" piece works for a marketing approach, I think not so for a parenting or instructional one.

    I have a youthful perspective, tempered, however, by years of hard work and positive, demanding mentors, team-oriented experiences, not to mention my share of losses.

    I believe in the reality of human nature, and that nature has capacity for great good and industriousness as well as for evil and severe lethargy. It's not just one way. Therefore, young people need structure, clarity, consequences, safety, and the assurance of where they stand. "Short cuts" can be detrimental if the discipline of the long way is never experienced. For example, early dependence upon calculators truncates neuropath development as well as basic number sense. It is lazy using a calculator when basic arithmetic and simple fractions done in one's head never materialize. Reading for comprehension also suffers given excessive time spent in digital media.

    Lost abilities endanger humanizing development, and our culture is fracturing. Technology is just a tool. It's not the problem. Permissive adults and their wavering standards in the face of normal youthful immaturity and impulsivity are to blame.

    Learning is not always fun, and it is often hard. Same with keeping one's word or completing a challenging assignment. The sustained effort required in order to see a task through to completion is in danger of being lost in today's youth culture for there are few shortcuts on the way to an independent, able-bodied, compassionate who will require the keen ability to produce wealth and manage it so that he is able to identify and purchase the brand being marketed his way.

    Short cuts with limited ability to comprehend what nuances those "big ambitions" will require is a sure formula toward an unsuspected fall. Teens will require a lot of elbow grease and mastery of the fundamentals if they are to develop the necessary resilience that thriving within a serious world demands.

    The author may not have realized that, indeed, all of this is at stake here. After all, he's just trying to get a brand purchased by bright, precocious youth with unfettered access to wealth that they did not themselves produce. I am confident that his advice will prove fruitful for those who heed it. Just keep this line of thinking out of the classroom and off of the sidelines. For those of us who labor there, we have some serious work to do. It isn't all very fun, and there are few shortcuts. But it's good. It's very good.

  2. Wayne Sharp from Zimron, February 13, 2013 at 11:57 a.m.

    Steve, to Brands, this is a much bigger deal than you have posted here - no offense. Brands need to know just how powerful teens are.

    If you have a teen in the home, they have an 80%-90% influence over what Brands are purchased. The parents may pay at the check-out, but its the teens that inform them brand characteristics that relate to sustainability. These include trust (78%), environmental friendliness (71%), ethical practices (71%) and alignment with a cause or social issue (61%).

    So they control over $30+ Trillion in US Sales.

    US teens have a $276 Billion annual spend on Consumables.

    Their Income:
    12-14yrs Av Annual Income US$2,167.00
    15-17yrs Av Annual Income US$4,023.00
    17-19yrs Av Annual Income US$22,028.00

    Teens are Macy's no.1 marketing focus.

    Ford are bringing in Teens to sell cars in Malls.

    Teens are huge to Brands!!!!!!

    I am the Founder of Zimron, an Online resource for Teens where Brands can interact with them. I am also a qualified Teen Mentor working with Teens for over ten years in different countries, so I know quite alot about this amazing and wonderful generation, they are truly incredible.

  3. Steve Smith from Firehouse, February 20, 2013 at 1:03 p.m.

    Thanks for the comments gentlemen. I have to say, I agree with you both. Clay, you're right, when it comes to the important stuff, there are no shortcuts, and our role as parents or coaches or mentors can't allow kids to lose sight of the value of work. Wayne, you're also right, teens are huge to brands. And I am well aware just how much of our household's spending is directed by their preferences or subject to their influence. I appreciate you reading and contributing your thoughts.

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