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October 29, 2008
Stop Watching Your Kids to Predict What's Next
Every month or so I read about the predicted demise of new media of some sort because our kids have short attention spans and only communicate by text-messaging. The theory goes that when our kids grow up, those mediums will be the primary way of communicating so we should prepare now.
This is a false assumption.
My son is a sophomore at a local University. My son recently grew a beard that looks a lot like Wolverine on X-Men. He rarely uses email and sticks to Facebook. He only wears one style of jeans and he loves T-shirts with snarky comments or mathematical humor:
There are only 2 kinds of people in the world, those who love binary and those who don't.
My daughter is constantly texting on her cell phone but rarely talking on it. She wears anything from Hollister with raised lettering. Katie is too young for the Internet so I've closed two of her MySpace accounts (I caught her with my router logs) and she doesn't have a blog. It's a dangerous world out there. She checks her email every couple weeks or so.
Kids don't blog. Kids don't email. Kids don't talk on the phone. They don't need to. They don't have jobs and they're still concentrating on school, relationships, and self-discovery. Someday soon they'll grow up.
When my kids hit the job market, their environment will change and so will their behavior. They will move away from friends and into the workplace. They will move away from self-discovery and have to move into a world of self-promotion, building authority, and leadership. A career will bring a desk and a laptop, as well as placing the cell phone on vibrate. My son will need to lose the funky beard and buy some khakis and collared shirts.  
Kids don't blog today because they don't have to. They don't use email because they don't have to. They text message because unlimited texting is there, unlimited minutes are not. They don't need LinkedIn or Plaxo - there is no need to network professionally or build their resume. It's no surprise to me that my kids don't blog nor read feeds - they've got writing assignments due at school all week and they're busy reading and researching every night.
If you're going to predict the future by watching your kids, you have to also pay attention to the factors that contribute to their behavior. Our kids are doing what's natural and efficient for their environment. Facebook, MySpace, Text-messaging and video games make sense today. They won't tomorrow.

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Douglas Karr is the Vice President of Blogging Evangelism for Compendium Blogware in Indianapolis, a corporate blogging platform. You can read The Marketing Technology Blog or Social Media Domination.  Douglas Karr has been in the Advertising and Marketing Technology space for over two decades. The clients that he's worked with directly are an impressive and diverse collection of companies throughout North America, Europe, and Australia.
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