My recent post on teen email use (see Teens Hate Email) led to a wave of Twitter and Disqus comments, some of which are simply answered by a relatively recent — Apr 20 2010 — report from the Pew Internet folks. When looking into teen mobile use, they determined that teens are moving away from email use:
by Amanda Lenhart, Rich Ling, Scott Campbell, and Kristen Purcell, Teens And Mobile Phones
Email: The least likely to be used by teens.
Email is the least used of the communication forms examined. When compared with use in 2006, daily email use has declined slightly from 15% of internet users to 11% of internet users in 2009. Fully 41% of all teens say that they never use email when communicating with their peers outside of school. While not used often for informal peer interactions, email is used in more formal situations such as in school and by parents and other adults. This does not mean that it is seen in a positive light.
Interviewer: Do people still use email?
Group: Yes, yes all the time.
High School Boy 1: Yeah, the teachers do! The teachers are like ridiculous with that especially if they have your parents’ email.
The researchers were asked abou these findings:
Samantha Murphy, Teens Lead the Way in Shift Away from Email
Only 11% of teens use email to communicate with friends each day, according to the Pew report. “Email doesn’t support real-time, flexible contact with others,” Scott Campbell, co-author of the Pew report, told TechNewsDaily. “You have to log in and also be online. Teens carry their phones with them anywhere and they can text their friends without stopping everything to respond. Teens do email, but not as much as they communicate in other ways.”
Campbell, who is an assistant professor of communication studies at University of Michigan, believes that once teens go to college and begin networking and job searching, email will become a more important way for them to communicate.
“Many teens consider email to be a more adult way of communicating,” he continued. “They aren’t in the stage of their lives when email serves a real purpose of staying in touch with people.”
Texting will continue to play a heavy role in their lives until their mid-20s, Campbell said. As they begin to settle down “and start new families of their own, they will rely less on their peers for a constant stream of communication through texts,” he said. “They won’t grow out of texting, but they will likely grow out of sending an enormous amount of them each day.”
Barrett agrees: “It will be interesting to see if teens start utilizing their personal email addresses more once they graduate from college and begin frequently using their work accounts,” he said. “There could be a small shift in professional communication as the younger demographic takes over, but you won’t see corporate executives using social networking as their main way of communicating.”
Email is not the only medium that has taken a hit from the expansion of text messaging and social networking.
“Teenagers are now overlooking the landline phone,” Campbell said. “Texting or going on Facebook via mobile devices allows teens to stay in touch with their friends anytime, anywhere. Landline phones confine teens to a certain space, and this is inconvenient for them.”
So, teen email use is falling steadily, and that is likely to continue on as a trend even after they enter the workforce.
I completely disagree with Barrett’s contention that ‘you won’t see corporate executives using social networking as their main way of communicating.’ My qualification is that today’s senior executives won’t use today’s social networks as their main way of communicating, but tomorrow’s senior executives will use tomorrow’s social networks as their main way of communicating.
There was a time when senior executives rejected email use as being too informal, and relied on old-school letters and memos. Zoom ahead a decade and letter writing in business is functionally extinct.
You must be very cautious when a researcher tells you that some trend line will never reach its logical end because of some extrinsic factor, like cultural norms that seem inviolable at the time of the statement, but which seem ludicrous a decade later. It’s like reading science fiction of long ago, where people are flying to the moon in a supposed future, but the women still leave the room when the men light up their cigars. Even the most avid futurologist can’t see past all their conceptual blinders.
The kids today are being raised in a context of intense real-time connectivity, via texting, social networks, and mobile internet. They are not going to willingly slow down and do email in order to make older email-oriented work contacts happy. They will expect others to adopt newer, faster, and lower-overhead modes of communication, and at some point, those that think email is the only appropriate way to do x-y-z in a business setting will have retired.