Gadget fever

Gadget fever

HK's young generation has access to more hi-tech gizmos than they need

Charmine Kan Lok-man owns three cameras, an iPod, a mobile phone and a computer. She bought all of these gadgets in the past two years.

"My three cameras are of different capacities," says the 16-year-old St Paul's Co-educational College student. "My Sony camera is a normal digital camera while the two Canon cameras are more professional."

Chris Wong Hoi-hei, 17, also has a range of products at home. He has two iPods, two cameras, two computers and a mobile phone.

"I bought the new iPod because the old one didn't have enough memory. And the second camera has better resolution than the first one. I also have a laptop and a desktop computer," says the student from Diocesan Boys' School.

Angel Chow Sin-hang also has two iPods because there are many more features on her iPod touch than her iPod nano. "I can watch videos and movies, and play games even when I go out. It's much more entertaining," says the 18-year-old.

The three students represent the new generation who have abundant access to more than they need. "Hong Kong youth are keen to own things," says Professor Kara Chan Ka-wah from the Department of Communication Studies at Baptist University.

"A survey [done by a local newspaper] in 2004 revealed two-thirds of 2,000 students aged 15-18 felt satisfied after their purchase because they could own the things they wanted. Many products are advertised directly to the growing youth market."

Chan recently published a book called Youth and Consumption. In one of her studies, Chan asked students to draw two pictures, one of a young person who has a lot of new and expensive things and another who does not.

"It's interesting to see how much they know about brand names by reading the details in the pictures, and how most of them linked possessions to happiness and friendship," she says.

Chan says peer influence remains an important factor in youth consumption patterns as young people like to talk about what they have and what they want to buy.

Charmine says her gadgets make her feel as if she's moving "at the same pace as the rest of the world". "Everyone is talking about Android phones and that's why I got one. If I bought an old phone with fewer functions, I couldn't discuss it with my friends, and I'd feel as if I had no say in the world."

Angel feels the same way. "The majority of teenagers today are equipped with the [latest] gadgets. If I use old ones, I can't keep up with my friends," she says.

Chan thinks the responsibility lies with parents. "Ultimately, parents are the ones who give them money. Parents can play an active role by discussing with children the differences between 'needs and wants'. Unfortunately, not many of them do that. Some even give cash in return for good marks," she says.

When asked what the students would give up and what they would keep if they had to, their answers reflected their understanding of needs and wants.

"I would keep my phone and my computer as I can't live without them," says Charmine.

"My mobile phone, because it covers all the functions I need," says Chris.

"Definitely my iPhone," says Angel. But for now, like so many other teenagers, the trio are determined to keep everything they have.

Additional reporting by Junior Reporter Kylie Lee



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