I learned many things at SXSW Interactive.

First and foremost, of course, I learned that geeks are a lot of fun. There were interesting and relevant panels starting at 10am everyday, and when they ended at 6pm, the parties started and went until 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning. The networking and connecting were amazing and fabulous.

I went to a panel on what teenagers want online and on their cell phones, and what they had to say was really interesting. There were really three points that seemed particularly salient:

  1. Teenagers don’t use e-mail except to communicate with adults (teachers, family, etc.). Instead they communicate through their cohort’s social networking site of choice (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.).
  2. Teenagers don’t use cell phones to talk to each other. Instead, they use them to text message and to play games. This was also true of the participants at SXSW, and I found it rather disconcerting. My old dinky cell phone just wasn’t up to the challenge, and I’m considering getting an iPhone so I can manage to stay in touch with my more technology-enabled new friends.
  3. Teenagers don’t watch TV on TV – they watch it online. Based on this point in the panel, and many other conversations about technology, I’ve got to say that I disagree with my new friend Sarah Dopp’s position that TV and Internet time are as different as reading an book and watching TV. Rather, I posit the point that Internet time is a larger, more general category that can and does include TV time. Furthermore, they do both need to be categorized as “screen time” because of the very real impact on our human eyes, brain, and body when we sit still and stare at a screen – regardless of what is on it.

These points about communication are relevant to anyone who is trying to communicate with teenagers, including parents and teachers. Generally the most effective way to reach someone is the way they tend to communicate with their friends in passing. While of course teenagers continue to hang out in person, they are as often as not texting a friend who is in the same room with private commentary on the public conversation. This is something that many adults like teachers and parents just don’t seem to fully get, and so they stand to loose out on the full context of their conversations with technologically savvy teenagers.

I also met a number of sex bloggers (and missed more that I had hoped to catch!). As this blog straddles the world between sex and parenting, it’s been hard for me to figure out really where I belong. So far, I have aimed my time and communication at the parenting blogging world. It was eye-opening and fun to begin talking with the sex bloggers as well.