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Media study sponsored by MTV and Nickelodeon shows New Zealand uptake of new media
Posted on 24-Jul-2007 19:33 | Tags Filed under: News

New Zealand youth are the highest users of mobile phones in comparison to their global counterparts, while New Zealand children, ranking highest at 80%, would not respond to a stranger who contacts them on a social network site.

In New Zealand the average young person 14-24 connected to digital technology has 88 (global average 94) phone numbers in their mobile, 77 (global average 78) people on a buddy list and 75 (global average 86) people in their social networking community.

Yet despite their technological immersion, these kids are not geeks – 77% of 8-14 year-old Kiwi kids (59% globally) still prefer their TV to their PCs and only 16% of New Zealand youth 14-24, (20% globally), admitting to being ‘interested’ in technology.

These are just some of the findings from a large global study undertaken by MTV and Nickelodeon, into how kids and young people interact with digital technology. The Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground technology and lifestyle study challenges traditional assumptions about their relationships with digital technology, and examines the impact of culture, age and gender on technology use.

The survey used both qualitative and quantitative methodology to talk to 18,000 “tech embracing” kids (8-14) in 12 countries and young people (14-24) in 16 countries: New Zealand, Australia, UK, Germany, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, China, India and Japan.

The study found that whilst many young people have access to similar digital technologies, they use them in very different ways. “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,” said Keely. “Anyone wanting to understand kids and youth has to understand how and why they differ.”

Japan’s reputation as a land in love with technology is different from the reality according to this survey. Young Japanese people live in small homes with limited privacy, generally don’t have their own PC until they go to college and socialise away from home a lot. Unlike what is true of New Zealand kids and other kids across the world, for Japanese kids aged 8-14, the phenomenon of social networking, user generated content and accessing music for free is far from the truth. Only 15% of Japanese kids, versus 39% of NZ kids visit User Generated Sites regularly and only 4% (versus 16% of NZ kids) have uploaded clips.

New Zealand kids 8-14 are the third highest of all countries surveyed to have uploaded material to these sites, ranking higher than British or Australian kids. Similarly, New Zealand kids rank higher than British or Australian kids in creating content on social network sites.

Climate impacts on digital technology too. In countries with a strong outdoor culture, such as New Zealand, Australia, Italy and Brazil, young people 14-24 use mobiles for arranging to meet, flirting and taking pictures of their friends.

Northern Europeans take a more practical approach to technology, but are perhaps the most immersed in it of all. Out of all nationalities surveyed, young Danes are most likely to say they can’t live without mobiles (80%, versus New Zealand youth at 31%) and young Dutch are most likely to say they can’t live without e-mail (85%, versus New Zealand youth at 33%).

Circuits of Cool and/Digital Playground found that technology’s greatest impact has been on the depth and range of friends that 14-24s have. From having an average of 11 friends between the ages of 8-14, young people speedily acquire circles of dozens of friends in their teenage years. The average 14-24 New Zealand youth matches the global average of 53 online and face-to-face friends - and communicates with them often. 46% (42% globally) of those asked said the first thing they did in the morning and the last thing they did at night was to check their mobiles. “There is a critical difference in mobile phone usage between kids and teenagers. For 8-14s, the mobile phone is a toy that you can talk to parents and close friends on. From 14 onwards the mobile phone quickly becomes a means of communication and self-expression,” said Chris Keely, General Manager, MTV and Nickelodeon New Zealand.

Circuits of Cool and Digital Playground found that the “technology” itself is irrelevant to kids and young people. While kids use mobiles and the internet constantly, the survey found that globally only 20% (16% in NZ) of 14-24s actually loved technology, and the ones who do are in developing nations such as Brazil, India and China. The people least interested in technology were the Danes and the Dutch – despite saying they couldn’t live without it.

Apart from a few key new media terms, most young people avoided industry jargon. Only 9% of New Zealand youth used the term “multi-platform,” and only 8% admitted to using the phrase “social networking.” The terms they use most frequently are those relating to accessing content for free, like “download”, “burn” and “Bluetooth”. They also use brand names rather than category terms, with MSN, Google, and MySpace amongst the most popular.

Circuits of Cool and Digital Playground found that what kids and teens do has not significantly changed in 15 years. For kids, they may be immersed in technology from the day they were born, but the things New Zealand kids enjoy doing most are watching TV (87% / 85% globally), hanging out with friends (81% / 68% globally), listening to music (70% / 78% globally) and playing video games (76% / 67% globally).

As they grow into teens so the ranking of their favourite pastimes change. At the top of the list of New Zealand 14-24s favourite pastimes is listening to music (77% / 70% globally), followed by hanging out with friends (72% / 65% globally). Next came watching DVDs (71% / 60% globally), watching TV (70% / 65% globally), relaxing (70% / 60% globally), going to cinema (62% / 59% globally), eating (60%/ 53% globally), spending time with girl/boyfriend (58% / 55% globally and hanging out at home (58%/ 49% globally).

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