Since yesterday was "Take Your Kid To Work Day," there were a number of 14 year-old students hanging out in our offices. I don't know if it was because I am closer to their age than some of my other coworkers, but I was asked to spend an hour talking about social media with them. Of the five, four had accounts on Facebook. Of those four, one of them had not checked it in about a year, two of them checked their's once per week and the other checked daily. Interestingly enough, the one fellow that didn't have a Facebook account had a far better understanding of how the internet works than the others - he used Torrents all the time, and was the only one to use and customize Firefox.
None of them had MySpace accounts. None of them had ever emailed a YouTube video to a friend, but they had all sent videos to friends using MSN Messenger. Messenger also seemed to be something they spent a lot of time on - rather than browsing the web, they were just talking to the same people they talk to at school (the instant messaging feature of Facebook was totally lost on them - none of them used it or really knew how it worked).
Napster was like a myth to them - when I asked them about it, one of them said "Didn't that used to be a company or something?" and they were in disbelief when I said it would sometimes take days to download a song.
Near the end of our time together, I asked them about cell phones. Their eyes lit up at this, and they all pulled out their phones. They told me that they text each other regularly, and only one of them seemed to get the distinction between regularly spelled words and phrases and the 'txting' short-hand that is often used in text messages. They also thought it was crazy that I didn't have a cell phone until I was 24 and moved to Japan. ("Is that because your parents wouldn't pay for it?" one of them asked me).
None of them new what they wanted to be when they grow up, and I said that was fine - they were only 15. Any jobs that they think they might want now will have drastically changed by the time they graudate university and start a career. The good part is that there will be a whole bunch of new jobs that don't exist right now, or that we aren't even really aware of that will be perfect for these kids.
Another thing that I thought was interesting was that they didn't have the enormous media diets that I thought they would. When I asked what websites they normally visited, they told me that they normally just visited the websites of the companies that they liked (mostly video game companies) to check for new products. They aren't reading blogs, and they aren't using search engines as much as you might think they might.
I'll admit that five is hardly a representative sample, but it was still great talking to these kids and finding out what they thought of new technology. I hope that they were able to learn as much from me as I was from them.
Thanks also to everyone that chimed in on Twitter as I was explaining that to them - I think they understood, but I don't think they thought Twitter was very cool. In a few years time, they'll probably be hooked into something way better.
PS: These kids also referred to Mario Kart 64 as "the original Mario Kart."