How Digital Is Shaping Teen Communication Habits


3 min read

Posted by Martin Casey on August 07, 2014

How Digital Is Shaping Teen Communication Habits

With a new report claiming that children as young as six in the UK believe they have the same knowledge of communications technology as their 45-year-old counterparts, we take a look at how the new boom of tech-savvy youths are harnessing digital platforms to disrupt the ways in which they use the internet and communicate with others.

Firstly, in its latest Communications Market Report published today, UK communications watchdog Ofcom attests that a “millennium generation” of 14-15 year olds in the UK are now the most technology savvy, having been the first generation to reap the rewards of broadband and digital communications in their early years. The report was compiled following the study of almost 2,000 adults and 800 children. According to Ofcom, the aim of the study was to measure people’s knowledge of communications technology in order to calculate their individual ‘digital quotient’ or DQ score. It  has also opened up a simplified online version of this DQ test for people to try out.

Teens and tech: how digital is shaping their communication habits - Ofcom

Ofcom Digital Quotient analysis

Crucially, one of the main findings from the analysis was that six year olds in the UK are claiming to have the same understanding of communications technology as those in the 45-year-old age group. Ofcom also credits the mid-teen age group as being at their sharpest when it comes to new technologies and ways of communicating.

Traditional forms of communication lack in favour with UK teens

The ongoing evolution of the digital age appears to be shaping how teens are communicating, or not as the case may be. In the Ofcom Ofcom report, the traditional telephone emerges as the biggest loser, for example. Apparently, children aged between 12 and 15 in the UK part with just 3% of their communications time by making telephone calls. In contrast text-based instant messaging and communicating via social networks is big news for such tween and teens, coming in at 94%. Email also takes a bit of a hit. While adults in the UK spend 33% of their time communicating by email, those aged between 12 and 15 just spend 2% of their time reaching out to others via email.

Communication v sleep

The impact of the always-on, connected-device era would also appear to be disrupting sleep patterns. According to Ofcom, the average UK adult now spends an average of eight hours and 41 minutes a day consuming media or communicating in contrast to eight hours and 21 minutes of shut eye. In the UK, for those aged between 12 and 15, smartphones are the most used device each week, at 67%, after TV sets.

Teens in Ireland and digital communication

So, what are some of the main communication trends for our teens on Irish soil? Net Children Go Mobile is a two-year research project that is funded under the European Commission’s Safer Internet Programme. It evaluates mobile internet and children in a European context. The Net Children Go Mobile: initial findings from Ireland report, published earlier this year, is the result of interviews carried out with 500 children aged between 9 and 16 in Ireland in late 2013. In terms of communication and social networking, more than a third of 13-16 year olds said they use instant messaging (IM) – think Skype or WhatsApp – to communicate daily.

Socialising in a digital world

Turning to social networking, nine in 10 of all 15-16 year olds indicated that they have a profile on a social networking site. Of this age bracket, 10% said they used Twitter as their chief social networking platform. And Instagram would appear to fare as the most popular media-sharing platform, with 42% of children aged between 9 and 16 saying they use this platform the most often. YouTube was the next most popular platform, with 34% of children in Ireland using it. Smartphones are the most-used device for daily internet access in the home (just under 60%) by 9-16 year olds. Other popular portable internet-connected devices used by children at home include tablets, at 44%; game consoles, at 22%; and handheld devices such as iPod touch, at 20%. Following on from the findings of the EU Kids Online data in 2011 on the online experiences of children, the Net Children Go Mobile report for Ireland reflects on the considerable upsurge in internet access via mobile and portable connected devices by children and teens in this post-desktop media landscape.

About the Author

Martin Casey
Martin Casey

Martin is Managing Director at Arekibo.