The “Digital Natives” are Restless …

Digital Natives, Digital Multi-taskingDigital natives” is a term used to describe consumers who have grown up with mobile technology as part of their daily lives – essentially people age 25 and younger.

And man, do these whippersnappers behave differently than the rest of us! “A Biometric Day in the Life,” a newly released research study from Time, Inc., reveals how the myriad digital devices and platforms are affecting the media consumption habits of the Digital Natives compared to the rest of the population.

The salient finding from the Time research: On average, Digital Natives switch their attention between various media platforms a whopping 27 times in a single hour. That’s nearly once every other minute.

[For purposes of the analysis, media platforms includes television, magazines, desktop computers, tablets, smartphones, as well as channels within platforms.]

What’s the impact of this “multi-tasking to the max” behavior? The Time study posits that Digital Natives’ emotional engagement with content is less involved and more constrained.

In fact, the study concludes that these people tend to use media to regulate their mood; if they grow tired or bored, they switch to something else.

The study’s comparison of Digital Natives’ interaction with their digital devices to the rest of the population is also instructive. Natives tend to divide their time equally between digital and non-digital media, whereas the rest of us spend about two-thirds of our time with non-digital media.

Moreover, Digital Natives are significantly more likely to take their devices from room to room with them when they are at home (~65% versus ~40% for the rest of the population). One natural result of this tendency is that it makes switching platforms even easier.

And what about texting? Nearly nine out of ten Digital Natives report that they send or receive text messages on a typical day (compared to half of the rest of the population).

In fact, more than half of Digital Natives state that they “prefer texting people rather than talking to them.” Fewer than 30% of the rest of us feel that way.

Social media behaviors are similar; ~80% of Digital Natives report that they access Facebook at least once per day – far greater than rest of the population accesses (~57%).

The Time survey’s findings suggest that the traditional way of delivering marketing messages with a clear “beginning, middle and end” may be morphing into something dramatically different from what we’ve known.

Dr. Carl Marci, CEO and chief scientist at Innerscope Research as well as a staff psychiatrist as Massachusetts General Hospital, has made several interesting observations about the Time study:

 Patterns of visual attention and emotional consequences may be changing as a result of modern media consumption.

 The brains of a new generation of Americans may be becoming “rewired.”

 Marketers are facing an increasingly complex media environment, making it harder to reach and engage their target audiences.

If Dr. Marci’s observations are accurate, things are going to get much less predictable – and a lot more challenging – for marketers.

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