Teen Panel Part Two: Technology

At Retail Insider’s recently convened Teen Panel a handful of tech-savvy 13-year olds told us about their consumption habits, their views on sustainability and how they live with the technology that they have all grown up with. In the second part of our series on the results we look at the devices and platforms they socialise on and how the use of phones and TVs is changing.

Phones: no longer used for talking to people

The first thing to note is that the future of physical books could be precarious if this small snapshot is anything to go by. Although all of our teens enjoyed reading they didn’t particularly value owning books. One panellist stated “I got a Kindle for my tenth birthday and I got rid of all my books except the whole set of Harry Potter” while a second complained that “independent bookshops are expensive and e-books are really easy to buy”. It was also a consideration that e-books were felt to be more environmentally friendly.

How the panel paid for books (or any other goods) was varied. One girl had a NatWest youth bank card and account and was very comfortable paying for items via her phone with that card. However another preferred pocket money to be paid into her hand in cash every week as it gave her flexibility to go to “the coffee shop or buy something” where a card might not be accepted, while a third had a halfway house option of a GoHenry card which is not linked to a bank account but acts more like a top up Oyster card and is supported by VISA.

In terms of the social media platforms that they used the panel were quite conservative. They were all highly aware of e-safety considerations and although several were allowed TikTok none of them activly posted on it. “You’re alright just watching” said one, “it’s the DMs and the communication where the predators are”.

All panellists were slightly aggrieved that the positive parts of social media are never highlighted as parents and schools prefer to concentrate on the negative. “You can make money out of these sites” one noted. All  enjoyed Insta and were aware that it is now possible to shop through the site although they had not done it as it was felt that it might be “slightly less trustworthy” than buying direct from a brand.

The ever increasing technology available to order food did not seem to be of much interest to the panel at the moment. Most had ordered takeaways through Deliveroo or UberEats via phones or tablets but the majority response was that they enjoyed eating out in restaurants because “it was more of a special time to look forward to and share with the family”.

The possibility of cold food was the main disadvantage cited as one teen concluded “if it’s going to be fish and chips I’d rather go to get it myself because it’s close and stays hot”. Hidden delivery costs were also a bugbear but using the delivery sites was recognised as a part of modern life and a great benefit “when every one is hungry and tired”.

We also asked our respondents how they used technology in the home. It was immediately clear that the TV has become a more contested space as youngsters used to watching what they want when they want  on personal devices struggle to get the same freedom from the family TV set in the living room. One of our group used the TV mainly for watching films but had to get up very early to do so so that she did not have to consider the suitability for her younger siblings.

The good old days: TV is still a favoured medium for watching films with the whole family

In general everyone agreed that the TV was best for feature films and this was often done during family time on weekends although one person noted that she now gets annoyed if she has to share the television with other people as she is so used to watching content on her own. Those who want to use the TV for other activities such as gaming on a play station face even more of a struggle to be allocated the time with one commenting that it was a “fight for survival” on what to watch.

On laptops our respondents tended to favour watching streaming platforms such as Netflix while the phone was still largely the preserve of YouTube. Discussing phones, it soon became obvious that this generation even more than the one before it does not see the primary focus of the phone to speak to people. One girl said she never used the phone to call and “preferred texting as there are no awkward silences” while a second said she might make a call once a day and mainly preferred doing even that with the facetime function.

However they also did not see the point of constantly bringing out slightly improved new models with things like facial ID “which glitches all the time”. Our respondents were aware of, and largely disapproved of, built in obsolesence which they particularly associated with Apple products.

Attitudes to YouTube content and retail were surprisingly conservative. Celebrity clothing collaborations were criticised because “most of the clothes are too revealing, it’s embarrassing” as a second girl commented that the music videos she watches on YouTube sometimes featured artists “who aren’t good role models, they’ve got hardly anything on… and they’ve got kids”.

But music generally was consumed via YouTube. “I don’t see the point of Spotify” admitted one teen although another said she had used Apple Music for a bit. All the girls were aware that brands approach influencers to endorse their products and adjusted their acceptance of influencer reviews accordingly.

We asked how much personal information they are willing to hand over to companies via their devices. No-one liked the idea of geo-location and push notifications “I want to choose to go into a shop, not be directed into it” claimed one girl, but all were willing to part with some information if it would benefit them such as passing feedback on free samples and most were prepared to take out loyalty cards for brands which interested them. “The shopper should retain control” claimed the youngest girl “but I will tell them some things”.

The biggest stress of all with technology according to our panel was making sure that everything was charged at all times. “If Netflix cuts out”, concluded one girl, “now that’s apocalypse”.

Glynn Davis, Retail Insider