stay well-connected through cell phones, and by e-mailing and
instant messaging on the Web
Next Frontiers: Keeping in Touch
sound like yada, yada, yada to you, but not to the teenagers
who know how to talk the talk. Want a lesson? Listen up
10 issue - Remember those reach-out-and-touch-someone commercials?
Hang out with some well-wired teenagers and you'll feel better
knowing they never leave each other alone. NEWSWEEK hung out
with Short Hills, N.J., 17-year-old Rachel Fendell and her
friends on Nov. 20, the day before her school of 546 students
began Thanksgiving break. Conclusion: teenagers aren't just
touched by technology, they're embraced by it. By cell phones,
e-mail, the Web, instant messages. According to data from
Northbrook, Ill., firm Teenage Research Unlimited, 37 percent
of teens have cell phones; 78 percent go online at home. Ninety
percent say the Net is "cool"; 84 percent say the
same thing about partying. It's not that high school is cooler
than it used to be. It's just a lot easier to complain about
it now. A day in the life:
p.m., Newark Academy, Livingston, N.J. Rachel and classmate
Stefanie are chatting in the hallway. Stefanie's Nokia rings.
It's Mom, just touching base. "Wait, can I call you back?"
she asks and hangs up. She turns to Rachel to address a much
more pressing matter: what's going on tonight?
Academy's Interactive Learning Center Rachel logs on to
Newark's server (it lets her access documents and programs
like AppleWorks and PowerPoint) and explains that she's got
two AOL names: one for general use, one for colleges that
has a less cutesy profile. "I'm paranoid," she says.
"What if schools analyze how I described myself?"
Polymnian yearbook office Rachel's voice mails: (1) Sam, Camp
Tapawingo friend from nearby South Orange. She's going to
the Short Hills mall for pants. (2) Lindsey, from Houston,
friend from a Northwestern University summer program. "She
says she misses me so much," Rachel says. (3) Sam again.
Bad news: Rachel's favorite candy store has closed. Ugh. Where
now to find those low-fat Creamsicle chews?
en route to Starbucks Dad, who works in Portland, Ore., Monday
to Friday, calls. "I talk to him multiple times a day,"
says Rachel. "If I call him once and don't call back,
it's just to say hi. If I call twice, it's important and he'll
Starbucks Call to friend Michelle to see why she wasn't at
school. Reason: she woke up at 5 a.m. to do econ homework,
and her left eye was badly swollen. "Omigod, you poor
thing!" says Rachel, who hands the phone to Krupa, a
friend. Says Krupa, "I don't even know how to turn this
Rahul's driveway The sweets that the yearbook staff needs
for a fund-raiser are inside Rahul's house. Rachel, Krupa
and Rahul are locked out-and it's cold! Rahul borrows a phone
to call his brother inside. "Raj, open the garage door
now!" Rahul's parents rescinded his phone for failure
to manage minutes.
Krupa's foyer Lindsey does miss Rachel and calls again. She's
excited about seeing her and their other Northwestern friends
at a reunion in New York City in January. "I talked to
[summer pal] Dan," Rachel tells her. "No, online
... We made up ... He's like, 'I feel bad. It was my fault'
... Oh, and I got into Michigan."
Rachel's room Rachel has six AOL instant messages (and
12 e-mails) waiting on her laptop. She leaves it online all
day. Her away note instructed: "Leave me a message so
I can smile when vacation starts. Mwah xoxoxo." Nineteen
(of 151) buddies are signed on. Buddies are organized by:
SeNiOrS '99 (Camp Tapawingo friends), NeWaRk (friends from
school), BeNeLuX 2000 (friends from tennis camp in Europe),
PoRtLaNd (friends from when she lived in Oregon), BoLleTtIeRi
(friends from tennis camp in Florida), ChErUbS (Northwestern
friends)-and FrIeNdS (friends) ... She IMs a Northwestern
friend, Brian. He says hi, but he's busy multitasking. He's
making a fantasy football transaction on the Web to help his
ailing Brooklyn Bums, downloading Gnutella, a music file-sharing
program, and transferring tracks like Aerosmith's "Just
Push Play" to his MP3 player ... Sinking into a fluffy
love seat, Rachel gets to work on tonight's plans. She IMs
Erica (Should I go out?); Becky (You going out?); Sara (You're
going out? With?). "I'm on two hours a night"-25
minutes is the average, according to Jupiter Media Metrix-"but
you could be on here forever."
Joe's American Bar & Grill A few pals, one topic: boys.
(NEWSWEEK agreed to conceal identities. Luckily, they all
"I got an e-mail," says side salad, "that was
like, 'I like you. I love your eyes. Eyes are windows to the
soul.' I was like, 'What the hell?' No I-like-you stuff online!"
"Yeah," says half a Cobb salad, "but it's hard
to be like, 'I like you' in real life, so writing helps."
Says honey chicken with balsamic: "This kid-he asked
me out online. He's like, 'So we're together?' It's just so
impersonal." "This one guy," says half a Cobb,
"I would never go out with this guy ever. It's easier
to say that online. 'You'd never go out with me?' 'No, you're
more like a brother'."
driving Rachel calls Stefanie to see what's happening. Answer:
not much. She's watching guys in a basement watching basketball.
Sam's on her phone with a buddy. "She's freaking. She
had some major decision to make," she tells Rachel after
hanging up so they can figure out where to go for ice cream.
Rachel's room Sam and Rachel call Boston friend Stephanie
to confirm weekend plans. While they're talking, Stephanie
e-mails Rachel about her love for "That '70s Show"/
"Dude, Where's My Car?" star Ashton Kutcher. Sam
(she's the one paying for the call) tells Rachel (she's doing
the talking) that "time is money. Rachel, tell Steph
we love her and we'll speak to her about Ashton later"
... Lucy, a friend from St. Louis, IMs Rachel to tell her
about a dream involving a crush. "We went on a date.
I think we were in Maine. He was eating clam chowder; I was
having a lobster roll." Lucy's also using a senior quote
Rachel suggested from Garth Brooks: "So don't you sit
upon the shoreline/And say you're satisfied/Choose to chance
the rapids/And dare to dance the tide" ... Alex, a Portland
friend, is online. He's working on college applications, listening
to MTV's Internet radio. (For a Colby College essay, he needed
Yahoo to remember a character's name from "A
Prayer for Owen Meany.") He's also just used a music
file-sharing program to download Pink's "Get the Party
Started." Which isn't happening in Short Hills tonight.
"Everyone is sitting around, watching basketball,"
Rachel IMs Krupa.
"That's our evening."
© 2002 Newsweek, Inc.