Teens Don't Twitter (and Other Faux Lessons)

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Media & Internet: How Teenagers Consume Media
Morgan Stanley Research Europe
3 pages

The Gist:
It's rare that a summer intern gets to author a report under the masthead of Morgan Stanley. But such is the luck of Matthew Robson. When the research arm of the vaunted financial giant asked the 15-year-old Brit to explain exactly how teenagers are using all these shiny new gadgets like cell phones, video games and the Internet, Robson gave them a concise summary that's impressive coming from a teen — but not exactly groundbreaking. Except, perhaps, to the financial set: an inexplicably enthused Morgan Stanley published Robson's anecdotes online under the lofty title "How Teenagers Consume Media," and the report spread across the Web from there. Edward Hill-Wood, executive director of the media team for Morgan Stanley's European branch, told the Guardian he was inundated with requests about the report. What exactly did Robson reveal? Well, not a lot.

Highlight Reel:
1. On how teenagers get the news: "No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarized on the Internet or on TV."

2. On gaming habits: "As consoles are now able to connect to the Internet, voice chat is possible between users, which has had an impact on phone usage; one can speak for free over the console, and so a teenager would be unwilling to use the phone."

3. On social-networking usage: "Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an Internet connection registered and visiting >4 times a week. Facebook is popular, as one can interact with friends on a wide scale. On the other hand, teenagers do not use Twitter. Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they release [sic] that they are not going to update it."

The Lowdown:
No disrespect to the young Robson — it's great to have anything published as an intern. The real beef lies with the businesses and bankers who are buying into a pretty self-evident report with some questionable assertions. While it's prefaced with a disclaimer that Morgan Stanley doesn't claim "representation or statistical accuracy," some of Robson's statements seem a little bit off. Some studies estimate that up to 31% of Twitter's users are between the ages of 15 and 19, which calls into question the worthiness of the bold assertion that "teenagers do not use Twitter." And while chatting via a video-game console is certainly cool, it's hard to believe that it will replace cell phones in any meaningful way, especially among the millennial set.

The real lesson? Those at Morgan Stanley need to spend a bit more time with their kids. Do that, and we suspect the revelation that teenagers like cell phones and free music will seem, well, a little less revelatory. 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.