Young Users of Communication Devices

Figure 1. Electronic/Communication Devices Owned by Middle and High School Students in Aichi

Figure 2. Modes of Communication Among HIgh School Students in Aichi

Source (for both figures): Aichi Board of Education survey, March 1997.
Note (for both figure): Percentages are as of January 1997.

Thanks partly to the rapid pace of technological innovation, personal computers, portable telephones, and other communication devices have become a common sight around Japanese offices and homes. Now, they are increasingly being used by schoolchildren as well.

According to a survey of 2,936 middle and high school students conducted in January 1997 by the Aichi Prefectural Board of Education, the shares of those owning beepers, personal computers, and portable telephones (including PHS, or personal handyphone system--a less expensive alternative to cellular phones) were 18.9%, 9.8%, and 3.7%, respectively (Figure 1). Since around two years ago, PHS handsets began being offered free of charge, frequently with the sign-up fee being waived as well, resulting in a rapid increase in PHS ownership among teenagers.

Personal beepers are even cheaper, both to buy and use, and they have become indispensable items for many high school students. The board of education survey found that the rate of ownership was 32.8% for all high school students and 44.5% for female students. Some of the more recent pagers can send and receive written messages, sometimes in code. New features like these have been a factor behind their rising popularity.

The wider availability of these communication tools is giving youngsters access to more information than ever before. Surfing on the World Wide Web, for instance, avails them to an unlimited array of information resources. To function effectively in our increasingly information-oriented society, one will need to gain access to facts whenever and wherever one needs them. The survey suggested this would be no problem for today's kids; 10.6% said they are fully capable of obtaining the information they want, with another 60.0% saying they can do so to a certain extent. Interestingly, though, high school girls said they still prefer writing letters to communicating by beeper (Figure 2).

Even as adults struggle to come to terms with the dizzying pace of innovation in information technology, children are already beginning to differentiate the types of devices they use to obtain the information they want. The age of information networks already appears to be upon us.