College Kids and their “Gadget Goodies”

I’ve received a few interesting comments from readers about my recent blog post about so-called “digital dementia.”  One reader and business colleague of mine, Syed Tahir Rasul, had this to say:

“In the 1990s, we were taught that playing computer games would even sharpen our mental skills.  But now this enormous increase in gadgets, [even] in the hands of five-year olds … is certainly alarming.  This is causing some sort of disorder for sure.  But then again, we can’t live without these gadgets now!”

College students and their electronic gadgetsThis got me to wondering:  I have two twenty-something daughters who are most definitely “wired” up one side and down the other.  But is this behavior the norm or the exception?

I found some answers in the form of results from a new online survey of ~1,525 college students aged 18 to 34 conducted by market research firm Crux Research for re:fuel, a branding and media company.  To be included in the survey, each respondent had to be taking at least one course on a physical campus.

With ~22 million U.S. college students expected to be enrolled for the 2013/14 college year, one would imagine the behaviors of this large group would track fairly closely with the overall behaviors of this age cohort.

What the re:fuel research shows is that the average American college student possesses seven devices in their technology “arsenal” (that’s up from six a year earlier).  So it’s definitely a “gadget grab-bag” with these kids.

Laptops and smartphones lead the pack in popularity:

  • Laptop computer:  ~85% of American college students own one
  • Smartphone:  ~69%
  • Video gaming console:  ~68%
  • MP3 player:  ~67%
  • Printer:  ~62%
  • Digital camera:  ~61%
  • Flat-screen TV:  ~60%


  • Desktop computer:  ~48%
  • Tablet computer:  ~36%
  • Handheld gaming system:  ~35%
  • Feature phone:  ~33%
  • Camcorder/video recorder:  ~25%
  • E-reader:  ~21%
  • Tivo/DVR:  ~18%

The “break” we observe between ownership rates of 60%+ and below 50% is as much a function of changing tastes in digital equipment as anything else.  “Old fashioned” feature phones are biting the dust as more college kids trade up to smartphones.  In fact, the survey reveals that more than 30% of the respondents say they intend to purchase a new smartphone in the coming year.

[Considering the ownership rates that already exist, quite a few students will be trading up not from a feature phone, but from another smartphone.]

Who uses camcorders anymore, when so many smartphones take just as good-quality pictures?

Desktop computers?  Why even bother?

There’s a good deal more information contained in the re:fuel college study — covering not only technology ownership but also student spending, online behaviors, media consumption habits, and engagement on social platforms.  You can review report highlights here.

If you have college-age kids … or if you’ve been a student yourself recently, I’m interested to hear your perspective on these trends.  Please share your thoughts.

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