Teenagers online really do think differently to the rest of us

When you were in your teens did you ever argue with your mum and dad? Did you ever believe you knew everything? Did you ever do things that you now wouldn’t attempt? Probably. The teenage turmoil is all down to the fact that as we develop into young adults we are trying to establish our place in the world and confirm our individual identity.

However, new research using brain imaging shows that a teenager’s brain is actually structured differently to an adults. And it seems that these differences lead to typical teenage behaviour. One important aspect of teenage behaviour is the increased desire to undertake risky actions. This is combined with “novelty seeking”. In other words, teenagers are much more likely than adults to try something new.

So, is it any wonder that things like social networking, online video and so on have been dominated initially by teenage users? What is interesting online, however, is that those teenagers are not giving up on these “novelties”; they are sticking with them. That implies that those teenage brain differences are now persisting into their adult years. In turn that means a whole new world is being created with people prepared to take more risks and always seeking something new.

For Internet businesses this implies that in order to gain those future customers your online “experience” must continue to develop, to provide fresh and new things. With adults, businesses can often stand relatively still. But with the persistence of teenage novelty-seeking into adulthood, it means businesses will have to provide new and exciting things constantly.

The risk taking behaviour of teenagers also has implications for big business. Adults don’t like moving jobs – it’s a risk; better the devil you know, and all that. However, for teenagers changing jobs is not a problem. They are prepared to take the risk of moving. If that teenage trait persists, it suggests that employment stability will be a thing of the past.

What does all this mean for an Internet business? It suggests that to survive in the world where brains are changing you need to offer total flexibility in employment – not just pay lip service to it. You also need to constantly re-invent your business and change what you offer to your employees and your customers. Standing still is no longer an option.

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