[note, these were the opening comments the roundtable panel Ken Pyle moderated at OPASTCO (see above video to watch the entire panel) – this post was opened up to the public in July 2011].
It is a great honor to be here today moderating this panel, Youth Are Our Present. The inspiration for this panel was the comments made by Anika Enos of Gila River Telecom at the 2007 OPASTCO Winter Conference. I hope that you have seen her on ViodiTV these past couple of days – if you haven’t, you can find her on the web at Viodi dot TV. Her comments pointed to the importance of understanding what the youth of our communities find important as we plan for and build networks that will serve their needs as they move into adulthood. After hearing what she said, I went back to my room and wrote the description that became the basis for this panel.
Youth – Leading the Way
As I listened to Chris Becker’s comments earlier today about the important work that FRED is doing, I realized that this panel could almost be an extension of his presentation.
The title of this panel was stolen from an article I wrote a few years back. The title was intended to have a double meaning. On one hand, youth represent not only the future, but they represent the present. With their willingness to try new gadgets and services, they open up new markets and new product categories.
Often, the youth pull the adults in their lives with them into this new technology world, as evidenced by some interesting statistics from Kurt Scherf, Vice President of Parks Associates. One Parks Associates study found that 56% of respondents with teenagers indicated that teenagers were extremely influential in the purchase of gaming devices and software. No surprise, that more teenagers than not were found to be extremely influential in the purchase of televisions, mobile phones and computers.
Youth – A Gift to the Community
Youth are also a present in the sense that they are a gift to our communities. Without them, there is no future.
Fundamentally, this panel is about community. Youth and kids are the glue that binds a community together. I never got this until I had kids of my own. It is our responsibility – and independent telcos do a great job of this – to strengthen our communities and make them better for the next generation. This means helping the kids in our communities build assets that will help them become productive citizens of tomorrow.
The Minneapolis-based Search Institute has been studying why, “some young people grow up with ease, while others struggle.” They have found there are 40 developmental assets – really, they are talking about everyday wisdom – that have a huge influence on young people’s lives. I won’t go into the details, but the categories of developmental assets are support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time, commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies and positive identity. In a nutshell, the Search Institute says that it is up to all of us to help youth build these assets.
This may seem far afield from Telecom, but this example provided in the Search Institute’s workbook hits close to home.
“In Georgetown, Texas, where utility workers are trained in asset building, service trucks bear “A Safe Place” logo so that young people in an emergency can spot help quickly.”
The Search Institute has an excellent program that is worth investigating for your community.
Youth Are the Present
And although there is always room for improvement, I am truly encouraged by what I see in the youth of today. They are definitely further ahead than my generation. I am humbled and impressed by their skills and ability to learn new technology. I have used freeware bulletin boards written by a 17-year-old and supported by 13-year-olds. Just a few weeks ago, I had the chance to spend a few days with my 18-year-old nephew who is starting a business that he plans on running out of his dorm room.
And today’s panelists are no exception to this idea that the younger generation is truly special. We have a range of ages and interests represented here by these children of OPASTCO members. We are going to hear from them in a minute regarding how they use technology and media. Their opinions are important to hear, as you make decisions about tomorrow’s network configuration.
First, a little bit about the format of the panel. For the most part, the questions I ask will be based on a survey Viodi administered through several telcos over the past couple of months. Thanks to all of the telcos and their folks that helped formulate the survey questions. This survey sample was smaller than the objective, but it does provide some interesting insight. I will be asking the survey questions of our panelists and, as appropriate, will interject the survey results into the discussion.