Teens can be confusing. And I don’t mean that in the dismissive-of-all-teenagers way. As someone who writes fictionalized versions of young adults, it’s my job to make sure I understand the people and the culture I’m writing about. But how hard can that really be? I was a teen once…not too long ago…ten years ago…when I was a freshman in college.
If you’ve ever opened up Snapchat and tried to navigate your way around the app’s interface, or found yourself baffled by the recent This American Life episode where a group of girls broke down the intricacies of what Instagram likes and comments actually mean, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. Culture changes at the speed of light. And if there’s anyone heralding that change from generation to generation, it’s the teenagers.
As it happens, I’m in luck, and so is everyone else who wants to understand the alien brain that is The American Teenager: Business Insider recently spoke to 60 young people between the ages of 13 and 19 from across the country to try and get a feel for teen culture these days. Sixty may not sound like a very large sample size, but it’s certainly a start.
First, The Not-So-Surprising Stuff
Teens love their phones. Most of the teens Business Insider talked to received their first smartphones around age eleven and spend, on average, six hours a day on them—both in and out of school.
As for apps, Instagram and Snapchat are huge—and not just for communicating with friends. Last year, Pew Research talked to 100 teenagers about the use of social media in romantic relationships. Nearly half of those 100 teens used social media to flirt with people they were interested in—liking photos, leaving comments, and sharing articles with them. “…the main way you’re going to know is like when they first say ‘hey,’” one girl explained. “How many y’s they put on their ‘hey.’ Yeah, they do that a lot.”
Entertainment-wise, teens stream television more than anything else, with Netflix being the clear winner among streaming services. “Netflix is life,” one sixteen-year-old told Business Insider.