March 16, 2013
Dear Luddites, Kids Use Cell Phones To Connect To The Internet Now
Like many Americans, I have AOL to thank for some of my earliest memories of the Internet.
My family wasn’t what you’d call “wealthy,” and living in a rural East Texas town, we were late to most technologies.
Yet, the fates had somehow conspired in my favor and my parents agreed to give this America Online thing a shot somewhere after the 20th free CD we received in the mail.
My parents and I went to the local CompUSA store, picked up a 28.8 modem, took it back home, installed it in our frankenmachine, and popped in the AOL disc.
My parents and younger brother surrounded me as I sat in front of the computer, opened up the program, clicked connect and was whisked to the World Wide Web.
Well, at least the AOL homepage.
As beginners, we didn’t have any knowledge of keywords or URLs yet.
I was able to find my way to a chat room somehow and my entire family watched in wide-mouthed wonder at how quickly messages were being sent back and forth.
“Say something!” my Mother said, nearly shouting with the excitement of being able to instantly communicate with so many people.
To make this long story short, I’ll simply say that some 35-year old man asked me to “IM” him and I, not knowing the parlance, returned his request with, “Why, of course, you’re you…”
Such was the state of the Internet in the 90s, and for many years afterwards, the Internet remained in homes and coffee shops, either in the living room or tucked away in the corner of a dimly lit cafe.
And now, knowing full well I’m about to make the understatement of the century; this is not how kids use the Internet today.
I say it’s the understatement of the century because it’s entirely obvious to anyone with eyes; to anyone who has ever seen teens in the wild or even seen a movie or TV show where a teen is depicted.
Teens these days have taken to wearing a reverent pose 90 percent of the time, their hands raised to their hearts, their heads bent low.
But they aren’t praying. They’re likely sending and receiving naked pictures they’ve taken of themselves (they call them n00ds…or at least they did once) or mutilating the English language with a slurry of abbreviations, acronyms and common street slang.
Everyone knows this and yet, those fine folks at the Pew Internet and American Life Project have decided to put numbers to plain, old fashioned fact.
I don’t mean to disparage the Pew group. They’re a fine people doing fine work.
And who’s to say that backing up bold-faced common sense with statistical numbers is a bad thing? It might be a touch unnecessary, sure…but not inherently bad.
So, unless you’ve spent the last 20 years on an Amish community in the east or a hippie commune in the west (and either way, you’re probably not reading this), you will not be surprised in the least to know that teens use their phones to connect to the Internet more often than they use a desktop or laptop.
Yeah, no duh.
One interesting point to note from the Pew study; kids in lower-income and lower-education households were, in some cases, more likely to use their phones to connect to the Internet. Perhaps these families are less likely to have any other means of connecting to the web.
Perhaps it means cellular companies have been able to make the Internet available to all.
Either way, it proves something we’ve known for over five years: kids use mobile devices to connect to the web.
It’s completely unlikely that they had the same experience as I did when my family first took a wild ride on the Information Superhighway all those years ago.
Kids…so hard to impress, what with their Beiber and Teletubbies.
Image Credit: William Perugini / Shutterstock