So here’s something for you oldies.
This week was the annual “Kidscreen Summit” here in New York. Clueless middle age executives walk around pretending that they know what kids are watching, they discuss how kids are consuming media, and then they plan on how to sell said kids more media. I generally go every year (and like to think I’m still one of the cool kids). Networks tell producers what they want, producers pitch them ideas that feel like they’re from the 80′s, and I drink as many free cocktails as I can over a three day period.
One of the panels was “Kids Talk Tech“, which probably sounded good on paper – a panel of REAL, LIVE six, seven and eight year old kids answer question about all the stuff they do online, what the like, and, of course, how they consume media. I’m sure the kids are very smart and literate when they’re in a small focus group room but when they get plopped in front of 200 staring executives like a bunch of lab rats guess what? They kind of freak out, stare like deer caught in headlights and fail to say anything useful. A video of taped responses would have been much better. Honestly, I have to say I didn’t attend the panel – but from what everyone told me, it was a bit of a bust.
I’m pretty good with technology. I’ve been IM’ing before it was called “IM’ing”. I know what social networks are hot, and I know that if you gave a kid a choice between a TV, a cellphone, and iPod and a game console and said you can have ONLY ONE, so pick the one the one that is most important, 90% of them would take the cellphone (which has games, video, IM, and music – kids actually get “convergence”, but they don’t use the dorky buzzword).
Anyhow, I got home and checked my Facebook feed and saw this – and it’s a great showcase of how kids emote and relate using technology.
Check this – it’s a conversation generated by a Facebook status update of a real live 14 year old (who will remain nameless). It’s not just a breakup – on FACEBOOK – it’s a breakup, discussion, explanation, apology and then forgiveness, all done as a series of one line sentences. I’ve blurred the images and dropped the names (and hopefully this person doesn’t check my blog to find out i’m posting his private life online!) but this is a great example of what SHOULD have been discussed on that panel – kids don’t sit around yakking on the phone while chewing gum, yammering away while twirling the phone cord around their index finger anymore like we did in the 70′s and 80′s. Life for a screenager is faster, more direct, more public, and a far cry from the stammering, yammering, awkward nerds that we were at the same age (click the photo to make it bigger).
I’ve tagged the “guy” and “girl” in red so you can track the conversation. Sorry becomes “sry”. OMG, of course, is “oh my god” (for those of you who are completely and utterly hopeless). Even the apology is clipped, text shortened. The language is evolving. In a multitasking, multi-window, multi-tread world, clipping letters and words is just the order of the day. And this is a BREAKUP – it’s a reasonably formal thing. Before, we’d sit and stammer on the phone, say “it’s not you, it’s me”, or “I’m just not in that headspace right now”, saying the sentences we practiced for thirty minutes while wincing the whole time. Then we as a culture got tired of that, and started doing it via email. Today, 20-somethings routinely do it via text messages. For the 20-somethings of tomorrow, breakups are a 7-line discussion done realtime on Facebook. How many people who claim to “know kids” have seen one of these? Probably not very many.
Ladies and Gents, that’s our market. Breakups and makeups that span 7 lines. A 22 minute animated program has about as much relevance to these kids as a frilly girdle or Ben-Gay. A 5 minute on-demand video podcast starts to look pretty relevant once you get a sense of how quickly these kids move.
Every Kidscreen when I see Shrimpy McEatsAlot gobbling cocktail shrimp from the lunch buffet table while wearing his cheap suit just having come from frantically pitching his outdated animated series idea about a family of rollerblading rockstar extreme sports agents to Cartoon Network, I wonder if he knows how out of date he is. He’s got no idea what kids today are doing. Do any of us, really? I couldn’t tell you five of the top 40 songs right now if my life depended on it (though I can, however, take for you a lovely ride in a Roflcopter across teh internets).
Even if I know the ROFLcopter goes SOI SOI SOI, at the end of the day I’m a nerdy 35 year old who’s trying to figure out how to relate with kids who take less time ending a relationship than I take to make a pot of coffee. Ferris Bueller was right when he said “Life moves pretty fast”. In fact, I think I’ll go Twitter that out right now just to remind everyone, LOL!