Kids May Be Wired, but Face-to-Face Still Rules

How Teens and Tweens Prefer to Communicate

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- There's hope for human interaction yet. A new study conducted by Alloy Media & Marketing and Harris Interactive found children and teenagers aged 8-18 are slightly less digital in their communication habits than many might expect.
Kids today may be wired but they say they prefer talking to friends and hanging with family.
Kids today may be wired but they say they prefer talking to friends and hanging with family. Credit: AP

The 1,487 kids polled for the nationwide survey said they prefer in-person interaction above all other modes of chatting, with 53% of teens (13 to 18) and 81% of tweens (8 to 12) choosing it over instant messaging, cellphones and e-mail.

'Online-only' friends
One sign of the times that did reveal itself in the statistics, however, was the emergence of "online-only" friends -- individuals teens have never formally met but chat with regularly online. Suzanne Martin, Harris Interactive's research manager-youth and education research, said it was this new approach to friendship that prompted her and Samantha Skey, senior VP at Alloy, to conduct research on the tricky demographic in the first place.

"We were at this panel about children looking at advertising online and we thought, 'We don't know what friendship means anymore,'" Ms. Martin said. "We think it's one thing, but what does it mean when a kid has 1,000 friends on a social-networking site? There's nothing out there that speaks to this and we need to know."

The study also showed that three in four teens have an online profile on some kind of social-networking site, with 4% of them selecting text messaging as their preferred method of communication.

"The skills that these teens are building today in text messaging are going to be continued and played out in the workplace in the future," she said.

Still using landlines
Yet in spite of all the increased use of new technology, Ms. Martin admitted she was surprised to discover that both groups preferred landlines to cellphones. And respondents listed time spent with parents as more valuable than time spent with friends, especially among tweens.

"We did find it interesting that it's still these traditional ways of getting together with friends at school, speaking to them on the phone and then kind of supplementing it with technology that makes for such a strong friendship," Ms. Martin said.
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