Japanese Youth Shun Computers

Or something like that.  My Japanese teacher brought in an article for me to read today about a survey some guy did from Nov~Dec 2004.  The survey was about cell phone and computer use among elementary school students 4th grade and up through junior high and up to high school sophomores students throughout Japan.  All in all they got responses from about 15000 students.

Some interesting stats:

Percent of students that have a cell phone:

  • Elementary school 19%
  • Junior high school 45%
  • High school 93%

Of those students that have a cell phone percent that send at least one e-mail a day.

  • Elementry school boys 20%
  • Elementry school girls 51%
  • Junior high school boys 83%
  • Junior high school girls 92%
  • High school boys 90%
  • High school girls 97%

Clearly girls use their phones more.  The most interesting ones for me were these though

Percent of students that use the computer to send and receive e-mail by computer:

  • Junior high 30%
  • High school 14%

Percent of students that play games on their computer

  • Elemetary school 68%
  • High school 32%

Percent of students that study using their computer

  • Elementary school 23%
  • High school 2%

The older the get the less they use the computer apparently.

The point of the article then went on to talk about attitudes.  Given the choice of only choosing one of the following answers, as in “which best describes your feelings”

  1. Living would become harder without a cell phone
  2. When I have nothing to do I start using my cell phone
  3. If I get no mail and no calls I start feeling lonely

The author apparently came to the conclusion that people with better grades picked #1 more than people with lower grades and some how he read something into that.  I didn’t follow his logic but the whole topic got me thinking.  What are American kids like?  How much do they use the computer vs the cell phone for e-mail?  My impression is e-mail from cell phones never quite caught on in the USA mostly because the cell phone companies sucked at making it easy to use (the last 2 phones I got while visiting the states both had attrocious e-mail text entry interfaces).  It wasn’t until recently that blackberry showed that the phone companies screwed up and missed a huge market opportunity but not supporting e-mail effectively.

Another question was does this continue in Japan.  Does computer e-mail use go up past high school or does it decline even further?  My impression is that for non geeks, the general population, especially women in Japan do the majority of their e-mail on their cell phone.  20-30 messages a day.  I know plenty that while they do have access to a PC the vast majority of their mail is on the cell phone.

It also got me thinking about the future.  Clearly cell phones get more powerful everyday.  When might they replace my computer.  Just blue skying here but I can imagine phones that run 20 hours on a single charge, that have those projection keyboards or something else for fast entry, that have some other kinds of display systems like projecting the display in the air in front of you and that have a fast and responsive net connection.  If that was the case most people would not need a PC or a PDA or a notebook anymore and something like that can’t really be that far off, 5-10 years?

Back to the author’s conclusions which I said I didn’t quite follow but I talked to my teacher about this, during my lifetime we went from slide rules to calculators.  I never had to use a slide rule but I just barely escaped that.  By high school calculators were relatively cheap and we were allowed to use them on math tests because the tests were not about the answers, they were about how you solved the problem.  The calculator only helped you verify your answer, it wouldn’t give you the answer.  Well, I can imagine a future where your cell phone, with instant and fast access to the net becomes a required part of your school studies.  Where when you take a test the test isn’t about if you memorized facts, the test if is you can find information about a topic and write a reasoned opinion on it since the facts for anything will always be at your fingertips.  Fun to imagine. 🙂

  • i saw those projection keyboards in hong kong…they’re so cool! i want to buy one just for the hell of it…

  • dude

    i think the reason for computer usage being higher for elementary schoolers is that the japanese government has been promoting the use of computers as of late. for a technologically advanced country, computer literacy is pretty low among non-business people compared to the states. instead, people tend to use their cellphones as a gateway into the internet. so the way i see these figures, it’s not that students start to use the computer less as they get older, instead, the government has just done a better job in introducing computers to the most recent generation.

  • Possible

    It’s possible it’s just about the newest generation being taught better but it’s also possible it’s a cultural thing.  If all your friends and TV idols etc are all using their cell phones it would be natural to follow.

    There’s also the issue that with 1/4 of the population living in the greater Tokyo area and that most of that population commutes by train that because they have on average 80 minutes each way of commute time that they just have more time.

    High School is more like college here in Japan meaning it’s not public, it’s more often than not a school with a major (computers, media, etc.) and it’s often far from home so it could just be the simple fact that high school students are commuting and younger students are just walking giving the high school students far more time where all they have is a cell phone.

  • Right on

    At my high school, computer use is abysmal. There are hundreds of computers here, all of which are horribly underused. Most of my students don’t even know how to use a search engine or get themselves a free email address. I think it’s true that the government is just doing a better job of promoting computer use these days. Seeing as most of the Japanese population, it seems, is pretty bad with computers, it only makes sense that it took so long for the government to get on the ball. After all, governments are rarely (if ever?) ahead of the game when it comes to things like this.

    If only the kids realized that the “internet” they’re using on their cellphones hardly captures the true power and usefulness of the “real” internet. But maybe that’s just me and my inability to read Japanese well that makes keitai internet usage seem relatively useless.



  • ben

    i know it’s been a LONG time since this was put up here, but if you have a reference for this paper you talk about that would be so amazing???