All Geared Up

How students wind down, get around, and stay connected
Illustration by Steven Burke


1. WIRED Only 52 percent of teens bought a CD last year. Then again, about 80 percent listen to music on an iPod or other portable media player.

2. KEWL Nearly three-fourths of teens prefer to communicate by instant message rather than e-mail (just a quarter of adults do the same). Far more (55 percent) have used IMs for homework help than for dating.

3. FREE-WHEELING In California the number of 16-year-olds with driver’s licenses has declined by more than one-fourth in ten years. Chalk up the drop to Web use, video games, rising costs for gas and insurance, cuts to driver’s ed classes, and restrictions placed on young drivers (including an 11 p.m. curfew).

4. NO GREEN There’s a reason the wallet in his backpack is empty: Part-time jobs are harder to come by, costs are up, and family budgets have dipped. Buying clothes—the biggest expense among 13- to 17-year-olds—is down 20 percent from a year ago.

5. CALLER ID About 6 percent of teens have purchased iPhones. The number was expected to grow to 9 percent even before people started lining up for the new model this summer.

6. SCREEN SAVOR Laptops are standard in high school, and blogs are becoming de rigueur, too. One-third of teenage girls blog, compared with one-fifth of boys. More girls than boys—54 percent versus 40—post photos of themselves on sites like MySpace.

7. SWEET NOTHINGS She’s clutching Red Vines, the unofficial candy of choice among girls (it’s fat-free, after all). The biggest source of sugar for girls? Soda. California teens average 1.4 cans a day.

8. HIGHER LEARNING The vital of painkillers she’s carrying belongs to her mom. Kids ages 12 to 17 abuse prescription medications more than they do cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines combined. The exception is pot; 1.7 million teens report having regularly used the drug in 2007.