Field Survey on the Use of Smartphones by Junior and Senior High School Students
The rapid popularization of such tools as smartphones and tablets, much more powerful than personal computers (PCs) or cellphones, is currently the most widely discussed topic in the field of children's and media studies.
These new media have become widespread so quickly that a deeper understanding of the current situation is needed. It seems that, in many cases, adults only discuss the issue from their own viewpoints based on their impression and imagination and do not address children's real use of smartphones and tablets.
Continued research published in the Children and Media Lab section of the Japanese CRN website have shown a possible generation gap in actual experience between those who grew up with new tools and those who shifted to them from traditional media.
2. Earlier Research
Just around 1996 when the Child Research Net was launched, IT appliances including PCs became rapidly widespread in homes.
Ever since, the IT environment has been rapidly changing, introducing and expanding the high-speed Internet, cellphones, and faster data communication.
These trends gave birth to a new generation who are familiar with digital devices from a very early stage of life. In particular, those born into such a digital environment with Internet access and PCs are called "digital natives."
They have developed a totally different sense of the use of digital devices compared to those who learned to use them later in their life.
The research published in Children and Media Lab section on the features of this generation were mainly conducted through interviews.
Ongoing studies so far have pointed out that further generation gaps exist even among digital natives.
♦ The pocket bell and Print Club* generation (born around 1980): the generation that started rudimentary mobile communication through Print Club and pocket bells. A new and different mode of making friends emerged through all-day communication via short messages and exchanging photo stickers. *small photo stickers printed by instant photo booths
♦ Cellphone generation (born around 1985) : the generation that communicated with text messages and photos using PHS or cellphones. Having only used handy phones, they were surprised to know that PCs were equipped with the same functions.
♦ Cellphone and PC generation (born around 1990) : the generation that has had a PC at home since early childhood and used cellphones as mobiles. They use both PCs and cellphones as the situation demands.
In addition, the recent spread of smartphones seems to have created a new "smartphone and tablet generation," born around 2000. In order to study their features, we conducted collaborative research with Dr. Masanao Takeyama Seminar at the Faculty of Economics, Keio University.
This was done because we thought research from the perspectives of university students, who are also digital natives and closer to "smartphones and tablets generation," would help better understand the differences between generations.
3. Research Findings
In several interview sessions with junior and senior high school students, the "smartphone and tablet generation," showed a new mode of IT usage, at which even the university students witnessed with surprise and curiosity.
It seems that human relationships have changed dramatically, especially friendship and love relationships.
In addition, some children use smartphones so often that it may be no exaggeration to say that the tool dominates their lives.
The major characteristic is that social relationships at school, particularly those in the classroom, have come to penetrate their life twenty-four hours a day, even at home, through an instant messenger apps typified by "LINE," which allows real-time, detailed communication.
Furthermore, they need to play a role of the characters they have at school (avoid "character overlap *1"). Thus, out of a feeling of oppression, they tend to establish other relationships outside school (in other schools or with adults) where they can be themselves with their real feelings. Also, the research indicates a tendency for students to want to find themselves and an identity.
We feel such a trend could cut both ways, not only having positive aspects but also causing some social problems, such as Internet bullying or trouble caused by dating service websites although they were not mentioned in this survey.
For more details of the study, please refer to the report published by Dr. Masanao Takeyama's Seminar at the Faculty of Economics, Keio University.