Young consumers are using more technology at a younger age to connect with more people than ever before, according to a survey of more than 5,000 US and Canadian online youth between the ages of 12 and 21 by Forrester Research Inc. (Nasdaq:

FORR). For example, 87 percent of 15-year-olds use instant messaging, while nearly half of 12- to 14-year-olds have a mobile phone. The findings are included in a seven-part series, entitled “Young Consumers And Technology,” Forrester’s most comprehensive analysis ever of young consumers’ technology attitudes and adoption.

“Marketing executives have been staring in wonder at their own tech-savvy children and asking, ‘Are all teenagers as wired as my own kids?'” said Chris Charron, vice president and research director at Forrester Research. “The answer is ‘yes.’ We are seeing a generation of young people for whom technology is not just a nice-to-have — it’s a critical part of their lives. There’s been a lot of speculation about the breadth and depth of technology use among young people. This data begins to codify that discussion.”

Forrester surveyed young consumers regarding their use of various devices, gaming, online activities, music downloads and file sharing, communication technologies, and attitudes toward media and advertising. Among the highlights:

  • Young people are communication junkies. Eighty-three percent use IM versus just 32 percent of online adults. More than three out of four young consumers have a mobile phone.
  • MP3 players top the device wish list. Twenty-five percent of young consumers said they plan to purchase an MP3 player in the next 12 months.
  • Entertainment grabs their online time. Young consumers spend almost 11 hours per week online, while nearly one in five of the youngest of this group (ages 12 to 17) spend 20 hours or more per week online.
  • Youth got game. Eighty-eight percent of boys ages 12 to 17 own a game console, compared with 63 percent of girls the same age. Fifty-five percent of boys would rather play games than watch TV.
  • Young consumers represent the social marketing vanguard. Fifty-two percent say they rely on recommendations from friends or family when making a purchase, compared with just 34 percent of adults.

Marketers Need To Reach Young Consumers On Their Terms

“These consumers are a portrait of the future,” said Charron. “Companies should look to this younger generation for inspiration in the design of new products and services.”

The Forrester study also dispels a myth about young consumers and advertising. Young consumers are more open to advertising than their parents are, although both generations are skeptical of the ads that they encounter.

“Young consumers have no preconceived notions of what advertising should be,” said Charron. “They have no problem with the lines between advertising and editorial being blurry. Because they have grown up to be more self-reliant in a digital environment, they have confidence in their ability to distinguish between the two. And there’s more good news for marketers: The viral nature of their communication with each other is a behavior that marketers can tap into.”

The complete “Young Consumers And Technology{” series, which also includes recommendations for marketers on ways to reach young consumers, is available to WholeView 2™ clients and can be found at