July 24, 2007 / 10:01 AM / 12 years ago

Young keep it simple in high-tech world: survey

LONDON (Reuters) - While young people embrace the Web with real or virtual friends and their cell phone is never far away, relatively few like technology and those that do tend to be in Brazil, India and China, according to a survey.

A woman listens to music on a cell phone in a file photo. While young people embrace the Web with real or virtual friends and their cell phone is never far away, relatively few like technology and those that do tend to be in Brazil, India and China, according to a survey. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Only a handful think of technology as a concept, and just 16 percent use terms like “social networking”, said two combined surveys covering 8- to 24-year-olds published on Tuesday by Microsoft and Viacom units MTV Networks and Nickelodeon.

“Young people don’t see “tech” as a separate entity - it’s an organic part of their lives,” said Andrew Davidson, vice president of MTV’s VBS International Insight unit.

“Talking to them about the role of technology in their lifestyle would be like talking to kids in the 1980s about the role the park swing or the telephone played in their social lives — it’s invisible.”

The surveys involved 18,000 young people in 16 countries including the UK, U.S., China, Japan, Canada and Mexico.

Terms most frequently used by the young when talking about technology related to accessing content for free, notably “download and “burn”.

The surveyors found the average Chinese computer user has 37 online friends they have never met, Indian youth are most likely to see cell phones as a status symbol, while one-in-three UK and U.S. teenagers say they cannot live without games consoles.

“The way each technology is adopted and adapted throughout the world depends as much on local cultural and social factors as on the technology itself,” said Davidson.

For example, the key digital device for Japan’s young is the cell phone because of the privacy and portability it offers those who live in small homes with limited privacy.

They found Japanese children aged eight to 14 have only one online friend they have not met, compared to a global average of five. Some 93 percent of Chinese computer users aged 8-14 have more than one friend online they have never met.

Davidson said this was encouraging those aged 8-14 in China to select online over television — a trend not seen in any other market in that age group.

The changes in how the youth market engages with technology is keenly followed by advertisers and content firms.

“Traditional youth marketing considered opinion formers and influencers to be a small elite, but these days the elite has become much larger,” said Davidson.

For parents worried about what their children are getting up to amid the wave of gadgets, little has changed in a generation.

The surveyors found the most popular activities the under-14s enjoy were watching TV, listening to music and being with friends. The rankings for those older was similar although listening to music was top.

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