20 Tips for Effectively Talking with Kids by Dale Hudson


Do your attempts to converse with the kids in your group or class get met with awkward silence?

Do you have a hard time making new kids feel welcome in your ministry?

Here’s 20 tips that will improve your kid communication skills and help you become a pro at one-on-one kid conversations.

1. Ask, “What was the best thing that happened this week for you?”

2. Ask, “What was the worst thing that happened this week for you?”

3. Ask, “What makes you happy?”

4. Ask, “Who would you like to meet that you’ve never met before?”

5.  Get on their eye level.  Remember you’re bigger than they are.  Imagine what it would feel like if you had to look up at someone every time you were talking with them.  When you get on their eye level, it shows you care about them and want to connect on their level.

6. Speak as simple as possible.  It’s not the time to use the latest medical term you’ve learned.

7. Avoid leading questions like, “Don’t you want to be a part of that small group?”

8. Avoid general questions like, “How was your week?” or “Did you have a good visit to your grandmother’s house?”  These will normally lead to one-word answers, such as, “good,” “bad” or “okay.”

9. Listen. Really listen.

10. If a child complains about something, ask what they would like to see happen or want to change.  This will validate their feelings and help them focus on a solution.

11. Ask what their favorite movie is?

12. Ask what their favorite video game is?

13. Don’t talk down to them.  Baby talk is okay in the nursery, but no where else.

14. Ask what they like to do for fun?

15. Ask, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?”

16. Ask what their favorite flavor of ice cream is?

17. Ask them to tell you a joke and then share one with them.

18. If you are leading a group, ask the kids to listen to the person who is talking.  Let them know they will be shown the same respect when it’s their turn to talk.

19. Ask if they have a pet? If they don’t, ask what their favorite animal is.

20. Ask about their family.

Remember…kids don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.  When you connect with them, it opens their heart to receive what God wants to do in their life through you.


A Small Shift To Turn Disciples Into Disciple Makers by Rob Trenchmann

Sometimes, small shifts change everything.

I was neck deep in student ministry. On Monday nights, I discipled a small group of guys in the Word. Tuesdays, I mentored young leaders. Wednesday nights brought basketball, then youth group. Thursdays and Fridays, I prepped for summer camps or a short-term mission trip. Sunday usually meant I was teaching the high school group, plus an afternoon mission team meeting. Summers were full of camps, interns, and student leadership teams.

Most of this routine seemed to be going well. New students were coming to Christ. Young people were maturing in their love for Jesus and his Word. Adults from the church were deeply invested in the lives of the youth. We had much to celebrate.

But one thing puzzled me. Students were becoming disciples, but they weren’t become disciple makers. They weren’t turning around and investing in others with the same intentionality and focus that we were investing in them. What was the problem?

We glimpse a shift in Mark 1 when Jesus encounters Simon, Andrew, James, and John beside the Sea of Galilee. You probably remember his famous invitation: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Their response is amazing! They drop their nets, leave their dad in the boat, and turn the family business over to hired hands to follow Jesus. We wonder, What could prompt this type of radical, dramatic, faith-filled response? How can I get my students to respond like this?

The truth is, this scene was less dramatic than we realize—but far more significant. Jesus probably knew these guys for over a year-and-a-half. (Mark hints at this when he reveals that this happened after John the Baptist was imprisoned.) John 1 through 5 had already happened. These disciples knew who Jesus was. They’d responded to his invitations to “come and see,” “repent and believe,” and “follow me.” Each of these callings were steps on the journey to becoming disciples of Jesus.

It started with simple relationship and pre-evangelism (“come and see”). Then they gave their lives to Jesus through repentance and faith (“repent and believe”). As new believers, they were invited to grow in him by learning to be like him (“follow me”). In Mark 1, Jesus challenges them to take the next step: to move from followers to followers who fish. It’s no longer enough to simply grow in Jesus. It’s time for them to make disciples of others.

Jesus showed up at the Sea of Galilee that day and did something simple and profound. He told his disciples where they were, and where they needed to go next. He issued a challenge. He declared the next steps of the journey. And it changed their lives.

This raises two significant questions for us, as we work with young people:

1) Does your ministry include the whole disciple-making process? Do you have opportunities for lost people to be found (come and see, repent and believe)? Are new believers cared for and rooted in the faith (follow me)? Are believers being trained and equipped to disciple others (fishers of men)? Too often, we focus on just one of these areas. But true disciple making involves each step of this process.

2) Are you inviting and challenging students to take the next step? This was the little shift that brought big results for me. I realized that we had disciple-making opportunities in each part of the process, but I wasn’t specifically challenging students to move. So I sat down, grabbed a pen and paper, and identified which students were in each of these areas. Then I met with them individually, and encouraged them to take the next step. This intentional step changed some of their lives. They started making disciples. They began mentoring younger believers. Some have even given their lives to working with young people. And all it took was a simple, specific conversation—sort of like the conversation Jesus had with his

Sometimes, small shifts change everything.


The Best Two Questions To Ask As We Develop Students by Tim Elmore



In February, I led a workshop at the National “First Year Experience” conference in Dallas. Several university staff spoke to me afterward about how difficult student development has become with college freshmen. One advisor said she was viewed as a “mean and nasty” person because she suggested first-year students needed to improve their people skills or study skills.

According to an analysis by Patricia Greenfield at UCLA, life skills such as critical thinking, interpersonal communication, and perseverance have declined with the prevalence of technology at our fingertips. As technology expands, our fundamental skills tend to diminish. “Reading for pleasure, which has declined among young people in recent decades, enhances thinking and engages the imagination in a way that visual media such as video games and television do not,” Greenfield said.

How much should schools use new media versus older techniques, such as reading and classroom discussion? “No one medium is good for everything,” Greenfield said. “If we want to develop a variety of skills, we need a balanced media diet. Each medium has costs and benefits in terms of what skills each develops.”

Consider the evolution of our culture. Do you know why belonging to a gym or a fitness center wasn’t popular a century ago? The majority of Americans didn’t need one. They were active bailing hay, working on a farm, or working in factories, where they stood all day and remained active. Fitness centers were unnecessary because physical fitness occurred naturally in their daily lives. Gyms became necessary as our lives became more sedentary. It just makes sense.

The same is true for our emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual growth as well. As technology, social media, and medications expand, we find ourselves needing to create new avenues to develop mature, well-adjusted students who are ready to graduate and take their place as contributing citizens. In my new book Twelve Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid, I offer a diagram that illustrates how kids today are growing up in a world that hinders them from maturing holistically. I call it the Generation iY SCENE. This is the scene kids are growing up in today, as well as the unintended consequences we didn’t see coming:

Their World is Full of: Consequently, They Can Assume:
S – Speed Slow is bad.
C – Convenience Hard is bad.
E – Entertainment Boring is bad.
N – Nurture Risk is bad.
E – Entitlement Labor is bad.

Note the list on the right. It seems to me that the ideas of slowhardboringrisk and labor are the very realities that enable me to mature into a good man, a good leader, a good husband and father. I am suggesting that our world of speed and convenience actually hinder the natural development of virtues we need to develop into strong adults. When things come quick and easy, I fail to develop the emotional muscles I need and require intentional exercises to fully mature.

I remember exactly when and where I learned the life skill of conflict resolution. I learned it playing outside with a dozen or so friends in a big field in back of our house. After we did our homework, we’d grab our baseball bats and mitts and play ball. We’d choose sides and umpire our own games. In the process, I learned interpersonal skills and conflict resolution.

I often joke that today kids get less and less time outside to do such things. When they do, there are often four mothers outside doing the conflict resolution for them.

The Formula

The fact is, we must become more intentional about student development in certain areas, especially as fewer life skills are cultivated naturally. In short:

The less natural life skills are cultivated during childhood, the more intentional we must be as we lead them in adolescence and young adulthood.

 A Prescription

So—before we know what to prescribe for student development today, we must ask two simple but profound questions as we observe them:

What social or emotional muscles seem to be weak?

What practices can we introduce into their lives to develop those muscles?

 Just like a Fitness Center enables us to develop physical muscles, specific social and emotional activities enable us to grow internally. At the risk of over-simplifying:

  • It is in waiting that I build patience.
  • It is in face-to-face collaboration that I build interpersonal skills.
  • It is in attempting risky ventures that I build courage.
  • It is in struggling that I build perseverance.
  • It is in boredom that I have margins to imagine and think creatively.
  • It is in challenging labor that I build appreciation for work ethic.

Here’s to asking these questions as you plan programming for your students.


5 Reminders About Communication in Youth Ministry by Jay Higham


Every once in awhile, even the most experienced youth worker needs to be reminded of some basic skills that he or she must master. Just recently, I was forced to revisit one of those skills.


Today, there are dozens of ways by which we communicate. And for a great many of us in youth ministry, mastery of multiple forms of communication is crucial. But it’s when we become overly confident in our chosen methods that we too often discover that we haven’t yet mastered the art of communication.

What I recently had to re-learn is just how crucial it is that people are informed and connected to what’s going on in your ministry. I’ve strategically used multiple forms of communication. From the looping announcement slides before and after worship, to the up-front announcements spoken during our Sunday service, to emails, tweets, texting, and so on, I thought I’d covered all my bases.

But I had forgotten the value of the phone call. Again. ☺ Which reminded me of a few important truths of communication.

You can’t say it enough

Repetition is good. Whether you’re talking to students or adults, you’ll need to repeat yourself, over and over and over again. As you think about making your announcements, you should plan ahead so that you have three or more weeks to verbally make your announcement.

Beyond your up-front announcements, train your team to reinforce the announcement by repeatedly speaking the announcement details to their students. This works well with student ministries that run with small groups. Be sure you provide the small group leaders with all the appropriate information so they can remind their small group students of upcoming activities.

Information trumps flare

I’m an artsy kind-of-a guy. Creating posters and fliers that look good is important to me. But what needs to be more important then the look is that the fliers and posters have the necessary information for the activity they promote. If they don’t answer the question of Who, What, Where, When, and How Much, then you’ve failed to communicate your activity.

Embrace multiple forms of communication

I’ve learned that different people, students included, prefer different methods of communication. In the past I’ve had students that faithfully checked their email. For them, email was the best way to stay in touch. I also have students that are fanatical about texting. I can text them and within minutes I get a response, even if they are in school. Not always sure how they do that . . .

As long as it doesn’t consume your day, I see no problem with utilizing all forms of communication. But if you chose to use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and email, make sure your students and parents know that they exist and how they can benefit from them.

Evaluate and downsize

You want to use your time well, so take the time to find out what communication method works best for you in your context of ministry. For example, 8 years ago not many of my students used Twitter. So Twitter was not a great use of my time. Currently, not many of my students are using Facebook. So I don’t spend time posting or updating my Facebook status. But they do text and they do use Instagram regularly. So, guess where I will be posting?

Take the time now to find out what your students and your parents are using and make it work for you. Don’t waste your time communicating with platforms that no one is using.

When in doubt, pick up the phone and call

Here’s a moment of confession: I HATE making phone calls. It’s too time consuming. But, it’s still the best way to get in touch with someone when you need to talk. When all other forms of communication fail, pick up the phone and make a call. And yes, it might be a little time consuming to make a bunch of phone calls. But it’s nothing compared to the amount of time, hurt, and pain you might have to deal with when someone misses out because you chose not to make the call.

Communication is important. But what’s more important is getting your communication right.

Don’t overlook the value of taking the time to learn how your students and parents communicate. There are plenty of different options to choose from and doing your homework will payoff in the long run.


7 Issues We Need To Talk About In Our Youth Groups by Aaron Crumbey


Here are a few topics I believe we as youth workers need to speak on in our ministries. I do believe that the increase in the statistics of these areas is largely due to social media. So as you read through think about how is social media affecting these areas and how can you affectively address them in your ministry. Notice that I don’t give solutions, because I believe every youth group is different and you know your students better. I wrote this to hopefully open our eyes a bit to what could potentially be going on in our youth groups.

  1. Bullying: (Source: stageoflife.com) – Bullying is still prevalent as it has always been, but with social media it has increased. Now students can be bullied 24 hours around the clock. 91% admit to being a victim of bullying.
  2. Texting and Social Media: (Source: stageoflife.com) – 57% of teens credit their mobile device with improving their life. They also see it as key to their social life. The average teen spent 31 hours a week online which is like 5 hours a day via a poll done in 2009. I can imagine that number has grown with the infusion of smart phones.
  3. Sex: (Source: diseasecontrolcenter) – 47.4% of the students surveyed had sexual intercourse and out of the 47.4% that had sex 39.8% of those students did not use protection. 15.3% admitted to having sex with 4 or more people during their lifetime.
  4. Drugs and Alcohol: (Source: SADD) – Statistically 72% of all students will have consumed alcohol by the end of high school. 37% have done so before the eighth grade. 6.7% of teens between the ages of 12-17 have smoked marijuana.
  5. Body Image: (source: stageoflife.com) – More than 90% percent of all girls between the ages 15-17 want to change their appearance. Body weight is ranking the highest. 13% admit to having an eating disorder. 7 out of 10 girls believe they don’t measure up or they’re not good enough concerning their looks, performance in school and relationships. 12% of teen boys are using unproven supplements and/or steroids to improve their body image. 44% of teens use skipping meals as a way to lose or control their weight.
  6. Depression: Students are dealing with depression. From the severe to the not so severe, at any rate they are dealing with it. The NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) states that 1 in 5 teens have experienced depression.
  7. The Future: (Source: stageoflife.com) – 66% of teens are afraid of the future or life after graduation.

Now, I’m not a huge statistics type of person, but I do believe it paints somewhat of a picture for you and I to internalize into our own ministries. When I look at the numbers, I think, “how would these numbers fair in my ministry?”

Now, I know that there are more than 7 issues, and I also can tell you that these things are happening in my ministry. And if you were to take an honest look into your ministry you would probably say the same. I hope there isn’t anyone out there thinking that none of this is going on in their ministry.

Praying for students and telling them not to do something is not enough.

So the question is, what are some ways, with a Biblical perspective, that we can educate and open up dialogue about these topics with students and parents?


You Don’t Think You Need To Hear This by Leneita Fix


I still recall the look on my mentor’s face when I first started in ministry. She would get this quiet smile as I would tell her that I already knew everything and I didn’t have much to learn. My opinion was truth and there wasn’t anyone who could tell me anything differently.Years later, I understand that look she used to have. It wasn’t bitterness or even resolve. She understood there comes a point when you realize actually how little you know.

I am thankful for mentors who let me think I knew it all so that I could learn I am actually desperate for help. I do wish however, that I had been shown how to navigate the pitfalls a little better. There are lessons learned along the way, that I wish I had learned long ago. As I walk alongside the next generation, I see there are heartaches they could miss. If they could just “get” these 5 things, I truly believe they would take this world for Christ in ways that would boggle our minds:

1. Only Christ has what you need.

I know it sounds elementary.Yet, I don’t think we teach our youth HOW to have their identity in Him. Why? We don’t really believe that he has everything. I heard Francis Chan say recently that we will look to Jesus as a Savior but will we see Him as our role model for living?

When we are unhappy or the world is unfair we try to find our identity in our work, our looks, our status and even our ministry. We must learn early that we must look at ourselves through the eyes of our Savior and never lose our desperation for Him.The moment we think we can gain control, we have actually lost everything.

2. Take the hurdles head on.

I had a mentor tell me once,”You can choose to run around the hurdles in your life. We all want to do it.The problem is that there will always be another one. At some point you need to learn how to jump them.” We can run away from our challenges, the one catch is that there will be another one.That verse in James says to consider it pure joy WHEN we face trials of MANY kinds. The sooner we can learn hurdles aren’t so scary, the more we can live a full life for the Lord. It may not feel like it in the moment, but with His hand we can get over them.

3. The journey matters.

When you are 10 you want to be 13. At 13 you just want to be 16. Then 18.Then 21.Then married.Then have children. Our focus can always be on that “next thing” there is to attain. We should have goals, that is important. However, the most important lessons learned are in the journey. (It may sound like a Hallmark card, but it’s true.) Where you are right at this moment is part of the shaping process that makes you look more like Jesus.  We need to help students ask the Lord, “What do you want me to learn in the adventure we are on together today?”

4. Scars are just tattoos with better stories.

We get wounded in life and sometimes it is beyond our control. Other times people hurt us. There are moments when those that should have loved stab deep.There are even moments when our decisions are indeed irreversible. The result is always a gaping and oozing sore. What we need to ask is, “Do we want to be healed?” Our attention can be solely on the unfairness of the lesion. Forgiveness is not giving the offense absolution. Instead, it is the understanding that no one can be effective if they are trying to ignore a bullet hole in the leg. Forgiveness recognizes that bitterness causes separation in our relationship with the Lord. Forgiveness is an act of choice that is followed by feeling. Our wounds do leave scars. But, when we let the Lord heal them then we can learn to embrace them. We are no longer the walking wounded, but those who are not afraid of the tale of our scars.

5. Don’t lose your zeal.

We have a tendency to feed this mentality that all teens rebel. You know when they “grow up,” then they will live fully for Christ. The other side of this is that we can teach our youth that at some point they should be less excited and passionate about Christ. Today is the day called for Salvation. Today is the day that the Lord wants you to be fully his to be used fully by him. Does rebellion happen? Yes, we have free will. Should we expect it? No. Let’s teach this generation they don’t have to be complacent. They can be a light that the world is drawn to, no matter the age.

If I could some it all up I would say this to my youth, “Live without regret.” If we can look back with as few cringing moments as possible it will all be worth it. I think most of all I just want this generation to understand that they are more powerful than they know. Now I stand with that same smile of knowing while I remind them, they have the full potential to put my faith to shame.


Why Courage is Difficult to Develop in Teenagers by Tim Elmore


I recently asked a group of outstanding student leaders (all seniors in high school) a simple question. They were all smart — the majority of them carry a 4.0 GPA — and many plan to attend Ivy League schools. If any teen should be confident about their future, it should be them. So I asked:

“Are you afraid of the future?”

Their response reminded me that courage is not merely about believing in yourself or your smarts or your giftedness. Something else is involved. What’s more, it seems that courage is a virtue that appears more rarely today than in the past—and when we see it, we are enraptured. When a young member of ISIS displays it, he may take the lives of innocent people, and we are terrorized by his courage. When a young teen displays it by standing up to a bully at school, we want to give her a prize. We admire her. Courage is so important to cultivate today, because without it, students cannot truly lead. Winston Churchill said, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the one which guarantees all others.” So why is courage so difficult to build in young people today?

1. We live in a pluralistic world with many options.

Our world is more complex and confusing than ever. Right and wrong are fuzzy. Few situations seem black or white; there is a lot of gray. (Sometimes fifty shades of it). This makes us reluctant to speak out or act.

2. We don’t want to fail.

Failure is a four-letter word today — no one wants to fail. Parents work to prevent failure in their children, while schools have inflated grades since 1970. Sadly, the fear of failure hinders courageous acts.

3. We “baptize” tolerance and blending in.

In a world where we’re told to tolerate everything, kids shrink from taking a stand for fear they might offend someone. While I see the need for tolerance among perspectives, obsession with it can dilute our courage to lead change.

4. We fear social media will haunt us if we’re wrong.

Social media can be a friend and an enemy of courage. We love to broadcast what we do—but because what we say online expands and remains there forever, it can suffocate a student’s courage to do or say something risky.

5. We lack clarity today.

Reflect for a moment. Clarity enables a person to act courageously. When we see a problem and recognize a clear solution, it fosters courage. Without clarity, courage leaks. Resolve gets diluted. We hesitate to take a risk.

Why is Courage so Important?

The truth is, only courage enables a leader to step out. In fact, the only measure of what we believe is what we do. If you want to know what people believe, don’t simply read what they write or ask what they think — just observe what they do. Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

Too many educators tell me an increasing number of students are afraid to step up and take a leadership position—as a resident advisor, a club leader, a student government officer, or a committee chairperson. For whatever reason, young people are frequently afraid to take a stand or invest the time. I wonder if it has anything to do with the need for a large dose of courage.

In the early part of the 19th century, senator Henry Clay had ambitions to become president. During his campaign, Clay stood in front of his fellow congressmen and made a speech on a very controversial issue. Just before stepping up to the podium, a friend grabbed his arm and stopped him. “Henry Clay, if you try to pass this bill, you’ll ruin your chances to become president.”

Clay looked down at his written speech. After a pause, he asked, “But is this right?”

When his friend responded that he felt it was, Henry Clay gave a classic reply: “Well, then, I’d rather be right than president.”

Wow… if only we used those words today.

This is what courage enables a person to do: to stand for what they believe is right; to risk their reputation, re-election or popularity; to take a risk, even if acting alone.

Join me over the next two days as we address the need for courage. Tomorrow, we will attempt to define just what courage is and what it means for young leaders. On Day Three, we will look at steps students can take to grow their courage “muscle.”

Continue reading


6 Learnings On Being Present by Aaron Crumbey


Growing up I’ve had several people in my life that have made a lasting impact. I am totally the man I am today because of the people who took the time to invest in me.

I feel privileged to have been able to do the same in the lives of the students I get to invest in. And along the way, I’ve learned a ton about being present in the lives of students. I’ve also learned how serious God takes it. So i thought I’d share a few of my learnings with you:

  1. I’ve learned students are listening – They are listening to our every word. Even though they might not do what we say all the time they are still listening. I’ve had students remind me of things that I’ve said that has helped them that I don’t even remember saying. I’ve also had them call me out on things I’ve said that I didn’t think they were paying any attention to. THEY ARE LISTENING and you have the ability to speak words that will build them up in their faith. On the flip side, you also have the ability to speak words that will tear them down or lead them astray. You must know that they are listening and the things you say is affecting them for the better or worse.
  2. I’ve learned students are watching – I believe students watch us more than they listen to us. As a leader/mentor it is important we model what we preach. This is why relational ministry is so important. Because the principle behind relational ministry is that we model Christ and the biblical principles of His kingdom to students doing life together. So it’s great in the sense that they get to hopefully not just hear about a life surrendered to God, but also see one. So if you are living a life surrendered to God that’s what they will see. Likewise, if you are talking the talk, but not walking the walk they will also see that. Remember, they are watching.
  3. I’ve learned to be honest with students – Be honest about where you are in your walk with Christ. And don’t be afraid to get help with the things you don’t know. Also, be lovingly honest in your conversations where you have to speak some tough truth.
  4. I’ve learned to be their leader, not their friend – Be their leader, not their friend as if they are your age or in your stage of life. This gets people into a lot of trouble because there are no clear lines drawn. And you begin to treat them as someone you can dump all of your frustrations/worries/hangups/habits/issues on. I need to use discernment concerning sharing about my life with students; and I need friends outside of ministry that are my age (or older) and are in my stage of life or have been in my stage of life that I can personally relate to and walk my faith journey with.
  5. I’ve learned it’s important that I strive to be trustworthy and lead with integrity – Remember, having integrity is not about being right, it’s about doing what’s right. We need to point students in the right direction. We need to teach them the right direction even when you’re wrong.
  6. I’ve learned that students are vulnerable – My role in their life gives me influence. It’s important that I take it seriously and never take advantage of it. Matthew 18:6 – Sometimes we think this verse means if we cause them to start doing drugs or something terrible, but our hypocriticalness can totally cause a student to stumble, and walk away from their faith. God holds us accountable with the lives He has entrusted us with.

Your presence in the lives of students are needed. Know that it is a responsibility God takes seriously.


The Case for Well-Rounded Kids by Tim Elmore


We live in a day when adults are pushing kids to discover their strengths and focus their lives. Thanks to the Gallup organization and author Marcus Buckingham, we have learned to concentrate on building strengths and to only play in that space. Not surprisingly, this has caused parents to hone our styles and launch our kids into football, ballet, piano, theatre, tennis or gymnastics at five years old. As a result, a lot of our kids today have the notion that they can just sharpen their skill until they go pro. We’ve embraced the idea of mental focus.

While this represents progress in many ways, it’s also had its downside. I’m not so sure we’ve embraced the idea of emotional health. Over the long haul, we’re now seeing the outcomes of our leadership styles. Parents, who are convinced they are raising the next Derek Jeter, or Tiger Woods or Serena Williams, push their children to make the grade, make the team, make the dream.

In our work with students, I’ve seen the problem surface in a handful of ways: Continue reading


U.S. Teens’ Social Media Activity is Diversifying, Says Pew by Natasha Lomas


Anyone in tech can tell you that Actual Teens are hallowed ground. Where teens’ tastes wander, the industry froths itself into a frenzy attempting to follow. For teens are a bellwether of dollar valuations to come. So what are American teens keen on right now? A new report by the Pew Research Center delves into the tech that matters to the kids that matter.

First startling stat: access to mobile devices is enabling a nearly quarter (24%) of teens to be online “almost constantly”. Which does rather underline why Actual Teens are so beloved by the tech industry. These eyeballs are oh-so-hungry for content to consume.

Smartphone penetration (either ownership or access to a device) stands at a not-so-surprising three-quarters (73%) of teens, according to Pew. A further 30% of teens have access to a basic mobile.

Almost all (92%) the polled teens profess to go online daily. A majority (56%) are online several times per day. While those youngsters not getting a daily tech fix are a vanishingly tiny minority: just six per cent of teens report going online only weekly. And but 12% limit their digital activity to a once per day fix.

As you’d expect, access to mobile devices drives increased teen time online, with the vast majority (94%) of teens who access the Internet on a mobile going online daily or more often.

Interestingly the research highlights some differences across different racial and ethnic groups, with African-American and Hispanic teens most likely to report being “online constantly” (34% and 32% respectively), vs 19% of white teens. But again the big driver for being most online looks to be smartphone tech — with African-American teens most likely (85%) to have or have access to a smartphone, ergo they are also more likely to be constantly online.

That said, Hispanic teens and white teens are equally likely (71%) to be able to access a smartphone — despite Hispanic teens being more likely than white teens to report being online constantly.

“American teens, especially African-American youth, have embraced smartphones and the 24/7 access to people and information that they offer,” notes Amanda Lenhart, associate director for Research at the Pew Research Center and the report’s lead author, in a statement.

So what social media services are America’s Actual Teens obsessing about? Facebook first and foremost — which remains the dominant social network for U.S. kids. A majority (71%) of these 13- to 17-year-olds report using Facebook. Next most popular is Facebook-owned photo-sharing service Instagram, used by 52% of teens. Then it’s Snapchat (41%); Twitter(33%) and Google+ (33%); Twitter-owned Vine (24%); and Tumblr (14%).

Pew notes that teens are diversifying their social network site use, with a majority (71%) reporting using more than one social network site out of the seven platform options they were asked about. Among the fifth (22%) of teens who only use one site, most (66%) use Facebook as their sole social fix, while 13% use Google+, 13% use Instagram and 3% use Snapchat.

Facebook also came out on top as the platform teens use most often, with 41% of teens identifying it as their most frequently used social service, followed by Instagram (20%), and Snapchat (11%).

The research identified some gender differences in U.S. teens’ online social activity, with boys more likely to report visiting Facebook more often (45% of boys vs 36% of girls), and girls more likely to report using Instagram than boys (23% vs 17%). Girls are also reported as generally dominating visually oriented social media platforms (including Pinterest), while boys are more likely to report gaming activity, either on a console or their smartphone. (Although it should be noted that a majority of both genders report playing games.)

Meanwhile older teens skew in favor of Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter as their most used platform, vs younger teens being a little more focused on Instagram.

Socio-economic status also influences choice of social media, with the survey finding that wealthier teens, whose families are in middle and upper income brackets, lean a little more towards using Snapchat than those from families in lower income brackets. Twitter also skews to wealthier socio-economic backgrounds teens. Conversely, teens from less well-off households are more likely to say they use Facebook the most.

Pew also investigated teens’ messaging app use. A third (33%) of teens with access to smartphones report having messaging apps such as Kik and WhatsApp — which sounds low when compared to the 90% who report exchanging texts (i.e. cellular SMS).

On the messaging app front, the researchers again found some differences among teens of different races and ethnicities. According to the report, African-American and Hispanic youth are substantially more likely to use messaging apps than white teens, with 47% of African-American teens and 46% of Hispanic using a messaging app vs just a quarter (24%) of white teens.

The report is the first in a series of forthcoming Pew reports examining American 13- to 17-year-olds use of tech. It’s not the first time the research firm has scrutinized this demographic either, although it notes it has changed its methodology for the latest report — using an online only survey method vs telephone interviews it has used in prior teen polls — so is not making like-for-like comparisons with earlier reports. The latest survey polled a nationally representative sample of 1,060 teens over two periods, one last fall, and again in spring.