Survey: Young keep it simple in high-tech world

Combined surveys by Microsoft and MTV Networks reveal that technology is "an organic part" of youths' lives around the world.

While young people embrace the Web with real or virtual friends, and their mobile phone is never far away, relatively few like technology, and those that do like technology tend to be in Brazil, India and China, according to a survey.

Only a handful think of technology as a concept, and just 16 percent use terms like "social networking," said two combined surveys covering 8- to 24-year-olds published on Tuesday by Microsoft and Viacom unit MTV Networks, which includes Nickelodeon.

"Young people don't see tech as a separate entity--it's an organic part of their lives," said Andrew Davidson, vice president at MTV Networks International.

"Talking to (youths) about the role of technology in their lifestyle would be like talking to kids in the 1980s about the role the park swing or the telephone played in their social lives--it's invisible."
--Andrew Davidson, VP, MTV Networks International

"Talking to them about the role of technology in their lifestyle would be like talking to kids in the 1980s about the role the park swing or the telephone played in their social lives--it's invisible," Davidson said.

The surveys involved 18,000 young people in 16 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Japan, Canada and Mexico.

Terms most frequently used by the young when talking about technology related to accessing content for free, notably "download and "burn."

The surveyors found that the average Chinese computer user has 37 online friends they have never met. Indian youth are most likely to see mobile phones as a status symbol, while a third of U.K. and U.S. teenagers say they cannot live without game consoles.

"The way each technology is adopted and adapted throughout the world depends as much on local cultural and social factors as on the technology itself," Davidson said.

For example, the key digital device for Japan's young is the mobile phone because of the privacy and portability it offers those who live in small homes with limited privacy.

The survey found that Japanese children ages 8 to 14 have only one online friend they have not met, compared to a global average of five. Some 93 percent of Chinese computer users in that age range have more than one friend online they have never met.

Davidson said this was encouraging those ages 8 to 14 in China to select online content over television--a trend not seen in any other market in that age group.

The changes in how the youth market engages with technology is keenly followed by advertisers and content providers. For parents worried about what their children are getting up to amid the wave of gadgets, little has changed in a generation.

The surveyors found that the most popular activities among those in the 8-to-14 bracket are watching TV, listening to music and being with friends. The rankings for those older was similar, though listening to music was top.