Over the weekend I had dinner with close friends who told me about their teenage daughter and her sleepover with few girl friends. “All three of the girls had their cell phones lined up and plugged in a charging side by side on the night table”. Even when they are sleeping, teens keep their cell phones close by. While awake, these “digital natives” are continuously connected which provides opportunities for reaching and engaging teens in their health.
Strong Statistics on Teen Mobile Usage
In Pew’s latest study of 12- 17 years old teens, there are interesting insights about teen's use of mobile technologies:
- Teens Have Mobile Phones. “Three-quarters (75%) of teens now have a cell phone”.
- Teens Texting for Connection. “Fully 72% of all teens – or 88% of teen cell phone users — are text-messages. That is a sharp rise from the 51% of teens who were texters in 2006.”
- Teens Texting Daily. Each day, 54% of teens text compared with 25% using social networking sites.
- Girls Texting Much More. Teenage girls tend to send and receive more texts each day, 80 compared with 30 for boys.
- Minority Teens Use Mobile for Internet Access. “44% of black teens and 35% of Hispanic teens use their cell phones to go online, compared with 21% of white teens”.
Influencing the Health of Mobile Teens
Organizations have been researching and piloting programs to learn how to impact the teen’s health behaviors for better outcomes.
After a successful pilot, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) with the Telstra Foundation rolled out a program for teens (and young adults) that uses mobile to monitor their mental health including stress levels, coping strategies, dietary and fitness factors.
The NY Times reports that Mount Sinai Hospital has researched and learned that sending text messages to young liver transplant patients can improve their medication adherence and “avoid life-threatening complications”.
Partner’s Center for Connected Health recently ran a pilot with pregnant teens with the goal of using mobile for outreach. OB Case management sent SMS text messages about proper pre-natal care and regiments. These messages were educational and prompted the teens to take an action such as attend an office visit. “We learned that the texting strengthened the relationship- 83% reported feeling more supported by the health center case manager”, explains Alex Pelletier, Team Lead, Program and Product Development at Partners. More about this pilot from Alex on my upcoming World Congress panel, Generating Mobile Engagement Through Consumer Segmentation, Crowd Sourcing and Personalization.
Future Mobile Teen Projects:
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently granted $2.4M to mobile health project including one from the San Francisco State University – San Francisco, California targeting teens from low-income backgrounds who experience much higher rates of obesity. To help these teens manage their obesity and depression, the University will evaluate the capturing of observations of daily living (ODLs) through smart phones and sharing of the data with their care team for planning and care management.
Teens are dealing with many different health issues while on the go managing their busy lives. Their health concerns span their physical and mental health which may include juvenile diabetes, obesity, asthma, sexual health problems and even autism.
How is your organization targeting this segment of “digital natives” around health? How are you leveraging mobile technologies to reach, influence and impact them to have healthier bodies and minds?