Teens in Spring 16

Keeping up with ever-changing youth culture can be tough.

We get a sense that language, music and technology are changing but how are things changing and what does that mean for working with teens. Business Insider 2016 report is out this Spring and here are some important insights we can use:

The Insider Report

To learn what American teenagers in 2016 really like, and what they don’t, they polled about 60 students from across the US. They interviewed teens ages 13 to 19, in middle school, high school, and college. (check out the whole report)

Here are some of the highlights

  1. Teens get their first smartphone when they’re 11.
  2. Teens are shy to talk about how much time they spend on their phones, but it’s a lot. Teens spend about six hours a day on their phones. (This is both in and out of school.)
  3. They said they spent 11 hours in front of screens every day — answers ranged from two hours to 18 hours
  4. Fovorite Apps –Snap Chat by a landslide -Spotify was almost universally heralded as the best music app, and it was also listed as a favorite app by a lot of respondents. Instagram was another favorite. The dark horse: Twitter. Facebook didn’t make the list but the messenger app did –  Messaging is huge –imessage, sms, and facebook messenger
  5. Netflix is the clear winner for streaming services –binge watching alone or with friends is a big pass time.

teen’s home screen


What Do We Make of All This?

So do we just do what the teens do to connect with them or use their tech to do something different?

There are so many restrictions for how to safely communicate with teens. Teachers and social workers are not allowed to add students on face book or Instagram.

Have teens share their world with you. What do they love on Netflix. What do they love about it? What is their favorite music on Spotify – what is on their play list. How can you use similar music styles at your youth events?

Most youth workers are not restricted in the same way to imessage students, have an Instagram account for their youth group or to contact teens.

As teens are moving away from face book it may be easier and more effective to connect with students on Instagram.

Netflix dominates a big chunk of our student’s lives. Discussions about discretion would be helpful. Help parents and teens set up good guidelines for content and reasonable limits.  

I want to really strongly advocate for face to face time spent with students with very small groups of students. The more tech takes over a students schedule the more important it is for parents and youth workers to communicate with them up close and personal.

What about you?

What are some ways that you use your knowledge of what is going on in youth culture as you work with teens?

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com


  1. Senior pastors and “senior” anything need to keep up with this. Thanks for sharing. Valuable insight.

    • Thanks so much pastor Bob. Even the rate of change is changing. Glad that we can help people keep up!

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