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Teen Gives Wall Street the 411

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I hate to take a page from Wall Street these days, but for this, I will give them credit!

Teenager using computer

Lori Getz: Recently, Morgan Stanley asked 15-year-old intern Matthew Robson to write a report on teen technology trends. called it "the firm's most popular report in years." In the report, Robson listed free music as invaluable and ads on websites, such as pop-ups and banners, annoying. He remarked that kids are not watching much TV or reading the newspaper. They don't use Twitter because the text messages cost them money, and everything on the net should be free. They would rather go to movies or concerts if they are going to have to pay for entertainment.

The article reminded me a bit of the movie "Big," when a young boy makes a wish to be big, and the next morning, wakes up as an adult. The adult version (played by Tom Hanks) gets a job as an executive producing toys, because who understands what kinds of toys kids want better than a kid. I'm actually surprised that more producers of tween and teen products do not enlist interns the way Morgan Stanley did.

But the whole thing got me thinking ... Wall Street is listening to teens about technology; are we?

Have we asked our teens what they are doing online? How they prefer to communicate with friends or get their news? Would they rather go to a concert or steal music off the net? What are their favorite sites? Maybe if we started asking them more questions about their world, we would have a better understanding of it.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called Four Questions Parents Have to Ask, talking about age-old parenting questions we ask our kids in the physical world and how to translate them to the cyber world. The Morgan Stanley article just reminded me that it is not just about asking the questions, but actually becoming interested in their trends that will lead us to the information we seek.

The majority of the Robson study seems fairly obvious, but there were a few items I feel are worth noting for parents.

1) Access to finances greatly influence how they communicate.

So if we hold the purse strings, we need to know what we are buying them and how they plan to use it. Before reaching for the iPod touch, make sure you understand that just because you are not paying for the digital access plan doesn't mean they can't get online or text. They can. Anywhere there is wireless access.

2) According to the Robson report, 8 out of 10 teens download music illegally!

Are you okay with your teenager shoplifting?! Because that is exactly what they are doing when they download copyrighted music without paying for it.

3) Gaming does not occur in "short bursts." Those who have gaming consoles will play for more than 1 hour at a time.

This is not healthy for their bodies. We are seeing an earlier onset of hand, eye, back, neck, and wrist problems because of sitting at the computer for too long or incorrectly.

4) Facebook is the most popular social networking site. Registered users visit Facebook more than four times per week.

Is your child on Facebook? Who are their friends? What are they putting out there about themselves for the world to see?

Wall Street's interest in these facts is purely economic, with advertisers and investors looking to capture the attention of this market. However, our interest is entirely different. We want to know what our kids are doing and whether or not they are safe.

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