American teens have grown up in a world where social media, cyber bullying, cell phones and selfies are the norm.
According to New research from Mintel, while there are a number of similarities between American kids and teens (opinions of their peers and parents, and preference for low-impact activities like watching TV), teens enjoy a great deal more independence than kids.
While 81% of all teens have cell phones, only 24% of kids can say the same. For teens, cell phones allow them to feel connected wherever they are, with 61% saying they like to be constantly connected to their friends and family and 45% saying cell phones connect them to their social worlds.
Although only three in 10 teens say they hang out with friends on weekdays and weekends, teens are regularly connecting with friends via cell phone, and 44% view texting to be just as meaningful a form of communication as actual conversation with a person over the phone. 23% of American teens agree that their cell phone is an expression of who they are.
Lauren Bonetto, Lifestyles & Leisure Analyst at Mintel, says “… American teens have grown up around technology… even the most tech savvy Millennials can remember a time before the internet… “
On weekdays, teens are mostly sedentary, according to Mintel data.
While online, teens are most likely to use the Internet for communication, information and entertainment with 45% of teens regarding the internet as one of their primary sources of entertainment. Looking at American teen usage:
75% of girls ages 15-17 are significantly more likely to visit social network sites, and 27% movie sites, compared to boys of the same age, as well as the overall American teen.
The study highlights that American teens spend an average of 8.23 hours online each week (excluding email), with older teens spending significantly more time online than younger teens. A full 66% of older teens spend at least five hours online each week, while 54% of younger teens spend less than five hours online. Teens are roughly equally likely to access the web using “big” screens, ie laptop and desktop computers (64%) and small screens, ie cell phones (62%).
Despite the perception that teens’ lives revolve around their friends, 67% of American teens say they enjoy spending time with family. When spending time at home, teens are likely to watch TV with their parents (48%) and siblings (41%), or by themselves (31%). Teens are relatively unlikely to watch TV with friends (8%) which suggests that they do not view TV as a social activity.
In fact, teens and kids are not fully engaged when watching TV as many are multitasking, says the report. Teens are more likely than kids to text (36% vs 8%) and do homework (22% vs 15%) while watching TV. However, social media may be effective for increasing teens’ TV engagement, as 42% of teens say they follow TV shows on social networks.
The report indicates that American teens may be using the TV as background noise while they text, go online and do homework. Girls are significantly more likely than boys to do various other activities while watching TV, suggesting that teen girls may be especially difficult to reach through the TV alone, and may be a prime target for social, second-screen engagement.
American teens are heavily influenced by their peers, says the report. 80% of teens say their friends know about their favorite brands, and teens’ favorite brands overlap with their parents’ favorite brands. The report says that eight in 10 kids agree with the statement, “My favorite brand is a brand my parents love as much as I do.”
Finally, US teens display more open-mindedness than many adults. The overwhelming majority agree that it is important to accept people of different:
Bonetto concludes that “… American teens have internalized messages about tolerance and acceptance… they will expect brands to be tolerant as well… ”
For more from Mintel, please visit here.