Size Of Friends List A Status Symbol For Teens
The Breakfast Club is a lot different these days. A leather jacket, a sports car, the right girlfriend may all still be factors (but I wouldn’t know, I’m 30) for weighing teen social status, but so is the number of people on your friends list.
Harris Interactive and Alloy Media + Marketing bravely delved into the virtual social lives of teens and tweens (ages 8-12) to better understand a very lucrative demographic.
Effectively acting on the dynamics of online social networks will be crucial to the marketers of the 21st Century, so we thought it best to pay attention.
Samantha Skey, senior vice president of strategic marketing for Alloy Media + Marketing, explains it better.
“Today’s teens look to their friends above any other influence for guidance and approval,” she said. “The extensive accessibility to friends’ in the current media environment and the evolving definition of friend’ affords peer networks greater import than ever.
“The shift extends to brands endeavoring to reach this influential audience as advertisers look to use the power of youth connectivity-and the evolving definition of friend’-to enable online propagation of their messages.”
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at what it’s like to be awkward, pimply, hot-tempered and clueless in the new millennium.
Before age 13, kids still very much like their parents, preferring to spend time with them rather than their friends. About 58 percent of tweens would rather hang out with Mom and Dad.
After 13, as is known throughout history, parents slip into a temporary retardation, which pushes 56 percent of teenagers to seek more intelligent life forms, usually other teenagers.
The teen years are also when youngsters fully embrace new forms of communication like email and instant messaging (74% use email vs. 26% of tweens), and text messaging (37% vs. 9%). Just over half of teens would rather talk to their friends in person, a preference that is far more favored among tweens, 81% of whom would rather talk face-to-face.
The average teen has 75 friends listed on their online profiles, 52 on their IM buddy list, 39 on their email contact list, and 38 friends on their cell phone. The number of contacts is often regarded as a status symbol, but this constant interaction is also thought to be important to a child’s social development, countering the convention that too much time on the computer takes away from that aspect. Online relationships are real relationships, even if they’ve never met.
A third of teens (36%) say they have friends they’ve never met in the “real world,” but mostly these kids use social networking tools to improve friendships with people they already know in the flesh. Eighty-seven percent have friends that are both real world and virtual friends.
“The Internet plays an increasingly important role in kids’ friendships. Social networking websites aid in youth development by providing an arena to build meaningful relationships, establish independence, strengthen their identity and become connected to a community that is not limited to their physical community.”
Almost 90 percent of teens have dual-world friends they’ve known for over a year, and 77 percent consider them extremely or very close friends, outnumbering the number of longstanding friends they have in the real world.
Interestingly, almost 30 percent say they are more honest with their online friends, an apparent reversal of what adults have been using the Internet for over the years, which is to lie to everybody.
Most teens (62%) say that talking to friends online makes them feel that they are always connected; but only a third say it makes them feel cool. That’s what listening to emo music is for.