Budding teenagers once looked forward to owning their first car, being able to go wherever they wanted, when they wanted, but according to The New York Times today’s teens would rather own a smartphone. Five out of every ten 16 year olds had a driver’s license in 1978, but fast forward to 2008 and it’s only three out of ten. What’s worse, the kids who do have a car are actually driving less: “The Transportation Department says 21-to-30-year-olds now drive 8 percent fewer miles than they did in 1995.” How exactly are the car makers going to deal with this? Ford says their goal isn’t to get more teens driving, but instead redefining what a car is by improving the experience of owning and using one. What are they going to change about their shoddily built econoboxes to fix that though? They don’t actually say.
Looking at the data, I can’t help but shake my head. By the time I turned 16 back in 2002 I made sure I knew exactly what I had to do to get a car. Which courses to take, which forms to fill out, everything. This was before Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), and Twitter (2006), back when people hung out in their free time and when sitting long periods in front of a computer made people think you were antisocial and just plain uncool. What is it with this generation and thinking that you can substitute actual face to face time by Apple’s FaceTime?
Alarm bells should be ringing when folks like Thilo Koslowski, Lead Automotive Analyst for Gartner, says: “Mobile devices, gadgets and the Internet are becoming must-have lifestyle products that convey status. In that sense these devices offer a degree of freedom and social reach that previously only the automobile offered.” He later adds that 46% of people aged 18 to 24 would rather have the internet than a car, compared to 15% of baby boomers.
If you have kids then do them a favor: Take their phone away, kick them out of the house, make them hang out with their peers. You shouldn’t be thrilled that your son is home all the time, staring at a glowing rectangle, you should be concerned that he’s in his early 20s, unemployed, and never brought home a girl.