Speak to any parent and they will tell you how it seems their teens are so distant. They see them but interaction is a different story. In some of these cases, those teens are just individuating and going through natural adolescent changes. This is a normal process, or so I hear.

I’m not a parent myself but I do like paying attention to the all-consuming trends around me some teens create. These trends are created by their use of various technologies, music styles, and language shifts. Because of this, it’s always quite interesting to me to ask them, “what are your top three apps?” The answers often lead me to insights into their world and what they are discovering.

From my informal poll, here are three categories of mobile apps that are trending with teens:

#1-Messaging

Usually, one or two of these top apps are messaging oriented. The messaging happens in two spheres: the messaging app which is simple and widely accessible by parents, family, and friends, and the app/service that is preferred and used only by their social peers. The former you would think lands simply on Facebook, but I’ve heard it go as simple as the built-in text messaging app, to Kik, to FB, and further.

The latter is where you find out how quickly things age out. For example, to find Snap as being two generations removed from many teens usage surprised me. But, as I thought about it, things made sense. About the time mainstream media, policymakers, or even the “cool” adults catch up, these teens want to be back into an app/service that’s uniquely theirs.

#2-Media

A similar story lies here. Each generation, and sometimes twice in a generation, musical tastes become remixed and redefined. What’s really interesting these days is how the remixing is happening. Sure, there are your streaming standbys (Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube), but it’s also interesting how teens are learning from the music industry as to how to enable different experiences within the framing of licensed and independent sounds.

I wish I could offer advice here, but it’s probably best to just say to listen to what motivates and irritates and ask teens how they work within those confines. What you’ll find isn’t always new music, but it is an alternate way consuming it.

#3-Text/Productivty

You should have seen my face when one teen mentioned email was in her top three apps. I couldn’t believe it. I would have believed notes, but not email. See, the statistics and trends point to many having gone away from email in favor of social and messaging apps. But to hear this from one teen, and find her reasoning – it makes coordinating events easier – seems to ride against some of the narratives where teens are on networks or communicating differently than adults. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of simplicity and ease.

Now, these are indeed my observations from more than a few conversations over the years. What might you have noticed with teens and their use of connected devices and services? After looking past the pace or multi-tasking aspects, do you find similar themes?