There has been much written about Matthew Robson (aged 15 years and 7 months) this week. Matthew has produced a report about teenagers’ media habits, and apparently it has created enormous interest from international fund managers and analysts. His supervisors have described the report as ‘one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen’. The 15 year old was lucky enough (and brave enough) to accept an internship at Morgan Stanley where the US investment bank’s team of media and internet researchers set him the mission of reporting on how teenagers use digital media. The Times (14.7.09:4) described his new found fame as in part luck, ’It was not just what Matthew knew, but whom he knew, or rather, whom his dog, Rudolph, knew.’. Apparently Matthew’s mum had been walking Rudolph, and had met Patrick Wellington, a senior financial analyst at the bank, who was also walking his dog; Matthew’s internship was secured.
Needless to say I am pleased that Matthew’s findings reflect findings from my own research with younger children (10-14 year olds), some of which I presented at the Showcomotion conference last week http://blog.showcomotionconference.com . Having spent the last three years on the research, and about to publish, it would be distressing to find that a 15 year old had usurped me!
Matthew states that ‘teenagers don’t twitter’, and I have certainly found this to be the case. When Twitter first entered my consciousness a couple of years ago, I assumed that this would be the next social networking site to be embraced by young teenagers, as I have watched young people over a three year period move from MSN to Piczo to Bebo, then My Space, and finally settling on Facebook. The Twitter perspective however is not one that young teenagers fully comprehend. After all unlike adults who find ‘twittering’ an on-going commentary of their lives amusing and sometimes compulsive, most young people have been using IM (instant messaging) since they were 10 years old, and SMS since they got their first mobile phone at 11, so for them there is nothing new in this. And with Facebook Chat now available they can be talking to each other live, uploading pictures, playing games and putting comments on each other’s walls all at the same time. A short message in less than 140 characters is not really their thing.
Matthew has done a great job in summarising teenagers’ views on media, but it may be that those of us who know teenagers well have not found Matthew’s report that surprising. What is perhaps more surprising is that the report has come as such a revelation to the investment bankers who after all must be responsible for funding some of the most prominent media providers. Time Magazine’s Dan Fletcher, while describing Matthew’s efforts as ‘impressive’ concludes that ‘Those at Morgan Stanley need to spend a bit more time with their kids. … Ultimately, Robson’s report does more to reveal how out of touch some in the business world are than to shed light on anything new about teenagers and the media.’ (15.7.09). Or as another blog commentator has said ‘What is shocking about this article is the relative “shock” created for these “executives” – – – – TWITTER – ummm, yeah – – – anyone with adolescent kids’ll tell you that they DON’T . . . . This 15 year old is master of the obvious. Those that need attention are the ones that are expressing surprise at his statements.’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jul/13/twitter-teenage-media-habits