How teens hack their phones (and what it means for the rest of us)
At Socratic, we spend a lot of time understanding how students use their phones. Hours of watching students study, interviews, and user-testing have underscored one main theme: teens use their phones very differently than anyone who didn’t grow up with a smartphone.
To better understand this theme, we asked a few friends with a lot of experience building apps for teenagers to discuss what they’ve learned. We were lucky to have Betaworks (from Giphy, Dots, and Bitly fame), Timehop (an app for digital-obsessed teens, allowing them to look back on digital moments from years past) and Unmute (audio app that lets you broadcast live audio calls from your phone) join us on the call. Listen to the full call here, or read some highlights:
Teens are super savvy about their online presence.
“My kids are using finstagrams — fake instagram accounts — to make temporary, event-based, sometimes private or public, non-parent-trackable accounts.” — John Borthwick from Betaworks
“My brother will take a picture of his pant leg, or you can put your phone all the way next to the floor or the wall, so all you have is the black background and you can write or draw something…it’s the easiest way to blast out a message to all of your friends without sending them a text message.” — Ana Rosenstein from Betaworks
Teens absolutely love screenshots.
“Teens screenshot everything. The Share button can be in front of their face and they’ll avoid it. Screenshoting and sending to a friend is such an easy mechanic that they won’t even use an innate built-in feature.” — Jonathan Wegener from Timehop
Many kids have older, hand-me-down phones.
“Their batteries don’t last that long. Most of the students we interviewed had their dimness all the way down so their battery would last through the day.” — Chris Pedregal from Socratic
Kids turn to Siri to avoid having to spell, or as a workaround for cracked phone screens.
“A kid who came in for user testing had a phone with a screen that was completely cracked. He can’t see anything and yet he’s found an ingenious way to use Siri for everything he does…he can access his voicemail, have Siri read out his voice messages. It was absolutely hysterical.” — Greg Leuch from Betaworks
We’re living in a Snapchat world.
“Wifi equals Snapchat. Snapchat equals wifi. First thing my kids ask for in a new place is the wifi password.” — John Borthwick from Betaworks
“Teens treat screenshoting a Snapchat as a “Like” because they know it will send the person a push notification.” — Matt Hartman from Betaworks
Teens use phones to minimize work for themselves.
“A lot of students won’t take their textbooks home…they open up the chapter they have to read and take a photo of every single page and leave their book behind.” — Chris Pedregal from Socratic