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Teen Stream: 7 Gen Z'ers give us the inside dope on how they use smartphones

By Published on .

Morgan S.
Morgan S. Credit: courtesy of the subject

MORGAN S.

Location: Newark, New Jersey

Age: 16

Grade: 11

Phone: iPhone 7

When did you get a phone?

In second grade. I got a smartphone in fifth grade.

Do you use your phone to call people besides your parents?

I use my phone to call everybody. I talk to my friends, family, etc. I like phone calls because they're quick and easy communication.

What can your phone do that you wish it didn't?

I feel like your phone knows where you are. I remember today it was like, "You're 15 minutes away from Rutgers," and I was like, "This is crazy, why do you know where I'm going?"

Do you notice ads when you're on the phone? And if you do, do you click on them?

I always notice the ads on my phone, while I'm online, using social media. It's rare that I click on them because it's usually an ad for something I've recently looked at. If it has something to do with makeup, I'm more tempted.

Do you and you friends worry about privacy?

Definitely! There are jokes on social media about how the FBI agents are watching us through our phones, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was true.

Any apps you've wound up deleting?

One is Musical.ly. It's overrated and for children. It didn't hold my interest at all.

What's your mobile phone pet peeve?

I personally don't like being called without a warning because I didn't mentally prepare myself to talk to the person. Sometimes, I'm simply not in the mood to talk so, unless it's a family member, I'll most likely decline the call if it wasn't scheduled.

How do you see people using their phones in 10 years?

I think phones are probably going to be even more incorporated into everyday life. Communication will be way better, maybe holographic. That would be really cool.

Alison L.
Alison L. Credit: courtesy of the subject

ALISON L.

Location: Summit, New Jersey

Age: 15

Grade: 10

Phone: iPhone 5S

When did you get a phone?

In fifth grade—it was one of those sliding-up keyboard phones. I got a smartphone maybe in seventh grade? Sometime in middle school.

Do you use your phone to call people besides your parents?

I love calling people—it demands a lot of your attention, or at least more than texting. It's a lot more personal. But I think calling people will eventually become obsolete.

If you could add any feature to your phone, what would it be?

If we could use it to pay for things, and not just using a credit card on our phone. If it was connected to our identity and bank account, without having any extra app, just embedded on the phone, that would be really cool.

Which app do you use the most?

I probably use Snapchat or Instagram the most. I think it's because the constant feed and flow of information is hard to tear yourself away from. And checking up on all your friends' lives.

What's your mobile phone pet peeve?

No texting back within a certain time period is just aggravating. Though I've definitely mellowed out about this, I still don't like it.

How do you see people using their phones in 10 years?

I think that as time goes on we're going to be a lot more dependent on our phones. They do so much. They're probably going to do a lot more.

Liam C.
Liam C. Credit: courtesy of the subject

LIAM C.

Location: Montreal

Age: 17

Grade: Graduated early

Phone: LG G5

When did you get a phone?

I had a non-smartphone starting in third grade. It could only call the police and my parents. In sixth grade I got my first smartphone.

Do you read on your phone?

Yes. I prefer paper to e-books, but almost all of my information about current events comes from different sources on the internet. I don't have cable, I don't sit down in front of the news.

Any apps you've wound up deleting?

I delete all of my social media apps from time to time, like if I end wrapped up in the application for too long or need to focus on one of my responsibilities in real life. A couple of years ago all of my mindless distractions on my phone were video games, but it's all social media now.

Do you notice ads when you're on the phone? And if you do, do you click on them?

I always find that the ones that stick out to me are the ones that come on annoyingly during a playlist, or disguised as a post in my feed. The advertisements that are loud and get in the way of whatever I'm doing are the ones I remember, like Sonny Digital's splice ad on SoundCloud. In general, I don't click on the ads, though. Nothing annoys me more than long ads you can't skip while listening to music.

What are your mobile pet peeves?

People not texting back is OK, but calling without warning is definitely not something I enjoy. A text is impersonal and quick, where a phone call feels like a conversation with all the usual societal obligations of a conversation. A text can be three words and nothing more.

How do you see people using their phones in 10 years?

People will be using them just as much, but a lot of my friends are growing out of social media. I've deleted my Facebook a few times and just taken a break from it. I can see myself getting off of it, too. But my smartphone, with all of its capabilities, will still be in my hands most of the time.

Noah C.
Noah C. Credit: courtesy of the subject

NOAH C.

Location: New York City

Age: 17

Grade: 12

Phone: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

When did you get a phone?

I got a cell phone at the beginning of high school. I've had a smartphone since junior year.

Do you use your phone to call people besides your parents?

I don't even use my phone to call my parents most of the time. I only call people when quick, reliable communication is necessary or if I only have access to a landline.

If you could add any feature to your phone, what would it be?

I'd want to make it smaller so it's easier to carry around. Or make it so it can be folded.

Do you use any of the newer technology, such as AR or 3-D modeling/printing?

Sometimes. I do have a VR headset that you use with your phone, but I don't use it often. My school's bathroom passes are 3-D printed. 3-D modeling and printing is clearly useful now and will become more useful in the future as processing power increases and complex 3-D graphics rendering becomes more useful.

Do you notice ads when you're on the phone? And if you do, do you click on them?

I notice them, but I ignore them. I don't click on them. If something actually interests me, I just look it up.

Can you tell the difference between sponsored content in an app and regular content?

Yes. Native advertising is usually pretty obvious, and it's almost always marked. If someone relentlessly supports a single brand or a product, then they almost certainly have a financial stake in supporting the product. Genuine articles about products will almost always recommend multiple products made by multiple brands made for multiple people, even if they rank them.

What kind of ads really annoy you?

The kind that you need to watch if you want to view a different video. Also, the ads that make a bunch of noise when you go on a page can be startling.

What's your mobile phone pet peeve?

If someone calls without warning, I won't pick up. They'll leave a message if it's important. If someone doesn't text back within a couple of days, I'll probably just send a follow-up and wait for a response. It's impossible to make someone reply, so I just quit after that

How do you see people using their phones in 10 years?

My crystal ball is in the shop right now, so I can't say definitively, but I'd say that people will probably use phones more as more uses are developed.

Malea D.
Malea D. Credit: courtesy of the subject

MALEA D.

Location: Forestville, California

Age: 13

Grade: 8

Phone: iPhone 6

When did you get a phone?

I got my iPhone for Christmas this year. I had my mom's old iPhone 4 before. I didn't have a number. You can have an email that you send iMessages with. I got that in fifth grade.

Do you use your phone to call people besides your parents?

If I do call a friend, it's usually a FaceTime—it's closer to a face-to-face conversation. If I'm going to actually call someone, it would most likely be my mom and dad. I don't need to FaceTime them to tell them I need guacamole from the store.

If you could add any feature to your phone, what would it be?

A keyboard that pops out.

Do you notice ads when you're on the phone? And if you do, do you click on them?

I don't pay much attention to the ads. I never click on them. Not many of the ads I see on Instagram make me want to learn more about the product. But I can remember about a month ago, I saw an ad for a cruise line that stood out to me—the way that they portrayed the family. They didn't just show, like, all the good times, they also showed that there can be struggles when families go on trips.

Can you tell the difference between sponsored content and regular content?

Sometimes it's hard to tell sponsored content from regular content on Instagram because [some brands], like Adidas and Nike, sponsor Instagram accounts [I follow]. I don't really care about sponsored content; it's not annoying and I understand that the apps need to have some ads to make money, especially if they're free.

What kind of ads really annoy you?

The ones that play before a YouTube video. I just want to watch my YouTube video and I don't want to see the ads. Pop-ups in any game that I'm playing [are also annoying], like when they're like, "Oh, you want to keep playing? Well watch a video first!" I've actually deleted many apps because of this.

Do you use the browser on your phone?

I use the browser tool often. I recently became vegetarian so I look up a lot of recipes, and my friends and I do song lyric pranks, where you send someone lyrics over text and pretend like that's what you're actually saying.

Do you read the news on your phone?

I follow a few news accounts on Instagram, which keep me up-to-date on a site that I often go on, instead of making me go to a whole different app.

What's your mobile phone pet peeve?

When people read your texts but don't respond to them and just ignore them. Another thing that annoys me is when you know someone is on their phone but won't pick up your call, or won't respond to your text. If I'm texting someone it's usually pretty important and I want them to respond to me, and if they're just ignoring you that's like pretending that you don't exist in real life.

Phoebe G.
Phoebe G. Credit: Phoebe G.

PHOEBE G.

Location: Boise, Idaho

Age: 17

Grade: 12

Phone: iPhone

When did you get a phone?

When I was 11. When I turned 13 I got an iPhone.

Do you use your phone to call people besides your parents?

Yes, friends or businesses.

Does your phone take up a lot of your time?

I think that everyone who has a smartphone is addicted to it in some way. If we didn't have smartphones, or if we didn't use them as much, we'd probably wouldn't be distracted by all the notifications and stuff popping up. I find myself not being able to do my schoolwork. I wish people used them less, but you can't really control other people. It's hard not being on your phone when everybody else is, so it's easy to get sucked in.

Do you notice ads when you're on the phone? And if you do, do you click on them?

Yes, ads are everywhere! Most of the time they're very compelling to click on because I believe they match up with my search history so they know what I'd be interested in.

What kind of ads really annoy you?

Pop-ups and autoplay videos are extremely annoying.

Avidan S.
Avidan S. Credit: Avidan S.

AVIDAN S.

Location: Millburn, New Jersey

Age: 14

Grade: 9

Phone: iPhone 6S

When did you get a phone?

I was in 6th grade. It was a flip phone. I've had an iPhone for over a year.

Do you use your phone to call people besides your parents?

Yes, I call my friends when something is too urgent to be in a text, or we want to talk. I just like the voice communication better than texting in certain scenarios.

Can you tell the difference between sponsored content in an app and regular content?

I can sometimes tell the difference, but it doesn't really matter. They need to make their money somehow, so sponsored content really isn't going to stop.

What kind of ads really annoy you?

Banners are mostly fine because they're off to the side, away from the content. Pop-ups and autoplay videos are the worst! Pop-ups will go onto your screen right as you're trying to click something then you accidentally click on them and go to this weird ad site. Autoplay videos are annoying because usually they're in the corner of your screen or sometimes right in the middle of the article you're trying to read, and they follow you wherever you scroll. Not only that, but they make my already laggy computer even slower because I'm now trying to do stuff while simultaneously playing a video.

Is there anything you wish your phone didn't do?

If they're going for something that's kind of like the Amazon Alexa, that's something I really wouldn't like. If you turn her on, she's always listening to what you say. I don't want to say spying, but it's always listening, and you don't know what you can say and what you can't, what's going to be tracked and recorded. If it hears you talking about something, like say you're going to Puerto Rico for vacation, it'll start giving you ads for Puerto Rico and stuff. It's a little creepy to me. On the new iPhone they have facial recognition. If I had that kind of phone I'd definitely want to take that away.

Do you use any of the newer technology, such as AR or 3-D modeling/printing?

I personally hate virtual reality, at least at the stage it's at now. I don't like the idea of being in a virtual world, now or in the future. 3-D printing is somewhat the same. Right now, it still has limited uses, but I believe that 3-D printing may become really useful when technology is more advanced. In the future we might be able to 3-D print cars, other mechanical things, and eventually maybe even human cells and organs for transplants.

What's your mobile phone pet peeve?

Not responding to texts is annoying. Even when the text is something informative, and not a question, I'd still like to have confirmation that they read it.

Do you read on your phone?

I prefer to read physical books, but when I read on my phone it's usually news articles when I'm not at home or short stories that I and other people write.

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