The Garver Teen Tech Survey

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Below you will find the Garver Teens and Technology Survey. It is completely unscientific, but nonetheless, 100 percent of the people in my house found it interesting and entertaining.

The survey was conducted by two people — a family friend named Daniel and me. My methodology was that I hung out where kids from the local public high school hang out, asked them if they'd like to fill out a questionnaire, and if they said, "yes," handed it to them. The good news about this process is that nobody called the police to arrest the suspicious-looking adult who was bugging the kids. Daniel, a senior at a private school, gave them to some of his schoolmates to fill out. The differences between the private and the public school don't seem particularly significant.

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The results, like teenagers themselves, are simultaneously reassuring and alarming for parents.

There's no denying that kids love their tech devices. When asked, "Which would you be more willing to live without: your cell phone, your computer, or your dinner," almost 40 percent said, "dinner." Maybe they've figured out a way they can text-message each other food.

All of the kids surveyed said that their family owned at least one computer. The number of computers owned by individual families ranged from 1 to 9. I would assume that means some families have more computers than bathrooms. Of course, they're probably online more than they're on, well, you know what I mean.

The number of wireless devices (cell phones, PDAs, iPods, etc.) owned by the kids varied from 0 to 8. That's eight devices for one person. I can't even name eight wireless devices.

The least surprising answer to a question was probably to the one that asked, "Who pays your cell phone bill?" Over 85 percent replied, "My parents do." About 9 percent said they split the bill with their parents, and only about 6 percent said they paid their own cell phone bill.

The kids surveyed demonstrated a good amount of respect for their parents. (I have no idea if this is related to the above stat about parents paying their kids' bills.) When asked if their parents were good with computers, less than 20 percent answered, "They are hopeless and clueless." And almost 75 percent of them say they never sneakily text-message someone at the dinner table when their parents are talking to them.

However, their respect for their teachers was not so impressive. Forty percent said they "often" sneakily text-message someone in class when they're supposed to be listening to the teacher.

So, you can either feel good that your kid shows you more respect, or you can be angry that he or she isn't paying attention in school. But that's for another survey.

As much as some of us may think kids spend too much time playing electronic games, more than 75 percent of them said they don't play electronic games at all, and a similar number feel the games can be addictive. Wait a minute. Somebody is buying all these Xboxes and PlayStations. Are adults the ones who play these games for hours every day?

In a somewhat frightening area, over 30 percent of them said they had had a "bad or scary experience on the Internet." Over 40 percent said they had "met" someone on the Internet whom they later met in person.

When asked, "Have you ever taken a picture with your picture phone — or posed for one — that you would definitely not show to your parents?" 40 percent answered, "Yes." So much for, "I need the camera feature on my phone for insurance purposes in case I'm ever in a car accident."

As much as teens seem to love computers and other high-tech devices, in some areas they were surprisingly low-tech. Only about 7 percent say they wish they could just sit at home and have all their classes on the computer, while 93 percent said they'd rather go to school with other kids. And when asked, "When you're finished with school, how likely do you think it is that you'll work in the tech field?" about 83 percent said it's "not likely at all." With the job market as it is, maybe I should have asked them how likely they thought it was that they'd get a job in anything.

I assumed that they would have preferred that the survey be conducted online instead of on paper. But I was wrong. More than three-fourths of them said they wouldn't have wanted it online and were happier to fill out the questionnaire with a pen on real paper. What could account for this affection for the "old school" approach? Was it somehow a connection to earlier, simpler times? Maybe it was a nice respite from the fast-paced high-tech world. Of course, who knows how many friends they "sneakily" text-messaged while they were supposed to be concentrating on the questionnaire?

Lloyd Garver writes a weekly column for He has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them when he was a teenager.

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By Lloyd Garver