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The Kids Are All Wired

I've been visiting area high schools since the school year started, because there's no place better for a technology reporter to plug into the latest trends.

Teens and college students rock the latest cell phones, portable gaming systems, laptops and more. And more importantly, young Americans are the sweet spot of the market for lots of companies that rightly look to their preferences as a guide to how people will be using technology in their work and play life.

The level of knowledge and sophistication that the average 15- or 16-year-old has about technology floors me. For example, I used to tutor a girl at Shaw Junior High School in Washington, D.C.. One of her classmates, whose reading skills weren't fantastic, was nevertheless fluent when it came to Nextel's iDen technology. Not only that, he knew what it was about the iDen technology -- different from that used by other cellular phones -- that made the company's walkie-talkie feature quick to connect.

Today, I was talking to a class in Falls Church, Va., and one of the kids suggested I write about an upcoming model of Motorola's Razr phone. I'd never heard of the model, but every other kid in the class was nodding in agreement. They all knew about this phone, and that it was going to be huge, despite having never touched it.

Similarly, several weeks back I wrote a story about Facebook's news feed -- a feature that looks a bit like the news wires we use here at The Post, except the headlines that appear on the Facebook home page reflected recent changes people had made to their personal profiles on the social networking site.

I'd never in my life as a reporter encountered so much unanimity on a story: Students everywhere hated the changes. I stood outside of George Washington University's student center and had student after student tell me versions of the same story: The generation known for blogging about their personal lives felt violated by the Facebook feature. It made me think to myself: Is Mark Zuckerberg -- the baby-faced 22-year-old Facebook chief executive -- now out of touch with young Americans?)

It's fascinating how news about Facebook's changes or the release of a hot new cell phone travels so quickly among young people. And that's what makes writing about those things both interesting and intimidating.

By Yuki Noguchi  |  October 19, 2006; 6:05 PM ET  | Category:  Yuki Noguchi
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Comments

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I can completely identify with this as I have two elementary aged children who are quickly coming up to speed on office productivity software, and tech gadgets, that I used to take classes to learn about!

Regarding Facebook, there is an excellent book that you and your readers would probably be interested in. It is called "Inside Facebook", and is a downloadable book, written by one of the first sr. sw engineers at the company. The book and it's related blog are at www.fbbook.com.

Thanks!

Posted by: Ted Matsumura | October 20, 2006 10:21 AM

My 18-year-old son casually mentioned the CRAZR last night as something he wanted to get. He has a RAZR now (it was a great deal - 2 RAZRs for $50.00 with rebate). I don't know how he heard about it, but it is typical that he and his friends know about certain technologies before the general public (read: people over 25). There is research ongoing about just how word on a new "something" spreads so fast and where it starts, etc.
This is a link to the Cingular "customer" forum where there is plenty on the CRAZR, including high-quality photos and detailed tech specs (http://forums.cingular.com/cng/board/message?board.id=motorola&message.id=71774). I expect that at least some of the "customers" are Cingular employees.

Posted by: Tim | October 20, 2006 10:36 AM

I completely agree that the level of technological sophistication among children is amazing. My 6 year old was helping his grandmother create a restricted user acocunt on Windows and informing her, correctly I might add, as to why she should not use her "admin" account for normal use. He has heard me explain this to a few people and just seems to naturally understand it.

Posted by: Troy | October 20, 2006 1:50 PM

I think that one was more a case of Facebook giving students what we wanted before we realized we wanted it -- I know I was uncomfortable with the idea in the beginning but quickly changed my opinion and now feel that the Minifeed is the best thing since sliced T1s. Follow up and see what they think now!

Posted by: Tim Smith | October 22, 2006 10:50 PM

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