Today’s students memorize fewer facts because they are well aware that everything they’d need to know is online. To get the best of this sea change, your kids actually know how to find things. It’s not as simple as you might think, and kids need a lot of time to explore the Internet unfettered by parental advice.
This is because parents search differently than teens. And kids who don’t get to browse freely become outsiders in their own teen culture: they don’t feel a shared sense of where the good information is. (Oh, and also those kids hate their parents.)
A lot of search tactics are shaped by trust. That is, how your criteria for trustworthiness affects where you look for information. Here are the different types of criteria teens use for when searching online that their parents probably don’t:
Teens pay attention to social proof. Other generations have been influenced by a Coke ad on TV. But now kids want to see conversation about a product before they believe that it’s cool. And forget about that list of awards as a way to get your kids to go to your favorite show. Teens require endorsement from a real person who the teen admires – that’s the social proof kids look for before they’ll believe the show is good.
Teens trust reviews. If there are not a lot of reviews about a product or a company then the kids sense that no one is paying attention. Bad things happen in dark deserted alleys both offline and online. This site rating hosting services may look spammy to older people, but kids know the site is trustworthy because the page is covered with reviews. Kids like reviews so much that the reviews become a product in themselves. Quartz wrote about The Magical World of Poorly Reviewed Harry Potter Products.
Teens trust word of mouth. Jay Baer reports that less than 50% of people over 30 use word of mouth to guide their purchases, but 86% of teens rely on word of mouth to make a purchasing decision. The extreme faith in people who are like you translates to a new kind of purchasing that is all word of mouth. For example, my kids found a Led Zeppelin light show via Reddit. And misterbandb is right on trend, presenting a gay-friendly list of places to stay via word-of-mouth from all over the world.
Teens hate Facebook. Teens think of Facebook as something people who don’t understand the Internet use. Kids have grown up watching Facebook screw over users time and again, and today only 9% of kids think Facebook is safe. Teens think even the advertisers on Facebook lie and they don’t even consider getting their news from Facebook.
Kids bolt when the content is bad. Teens have little patience for poorly written content. But their idea of poorly written is different from yours. They skip content that is long or hard to navigate. They know run academic writing through a plagiarism checker and they don’t post their resume until they run it through a site that scores each resume it finds.
Teens scoff at government publications. The government doesn’t give shortcuts, it doesn’t give the most recent news, and it doesn’t splurge for usability experts. So kids turn to unofficial sites to get the scoop on official business. For example check out this site to help Canadians get visas for India. Anyone can tell right away it’s not published by a government entity, but teens view a site like this as super trustworthy.
Teens are so over the mass market. The youngest generation puts the most trust in the microinfluencers — people a cozy community of up to 50,000 followers. Which is why Hershey’s just paid a huge amount of money to sponsor kids who record themselves playing video games. That’s right. Your kid could be the next foodie influencer if you’d just let him have some more screen time.