First, no one has a "real" smartphone, most are cheap Nokia phones with some applications for Facebook: People who have money usually buy BlackBerries, I have a Samsung Galaxy Ace (Being an Android fan) that I bought in Spain: but truth is smartphones are really expensive.
Facebook... everything is about Facebook here: Teenagers don't use any other IM service besides Facebook Messenger, they even use it in their phones.
I find it extremely painful to communicate because I need to keep a Facebook window tab opened if I want to chat with someone (Well, I use Pidgin now).
I don't even go into Facebook, the Facebook feed looks like browsing /r/funny New in Reddit, people don't post original content: Just memes copied from the internet and cristian stuff.
People tend to have a lot of friends in Facebook: I think I don't have more than 50 friends: Those who I really would like to talk with me and have access to my pictures.
What people really use here is ask.fm , I'm not sure if people in other countries use it: but the basic idea is that you create an account and people (Logged, or as Anonymous) post you questions and you answer: Then it gets posted in your Facebook.
I don't understand why would anyone want to use that service: The questions are dumb and nosense. Other questions are personal, and some people still answer that.
Nowadays most of my Facebook feed is 75% ask.fm links, it's really annoying.
Other services? Some people use Twitter, but not really; mostly teenagers following One Direction and Justin Bieber.
Blogging? Nah, no one reads blogs: they don't like reading anything larger than a couple lines of text (I think this: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1945/07/as-we-ma... can be relevant).
Youtube... they like dumb vlogs and some people like gameplays, I find this kind of videos very annoying and dumb.
Oh, not even mention Mail: most of people can't remember their passwords, for me, Mail is vital.
Tumblr? No one knows what that is.
Ah, no one uses Instagram either, and I'm glad...
So resuming: Teenagers only use the internet for Facebook, and, sometimes, reading the Wikipedia (When they have to do something for school) and that's really bad: They have a wonderful tool that they don't want to use, although the language (Most of teenagers don't have a good level of English, or at least they refuse to read English) can be an impediment.
For me the internet is amazing: you can learn whatever you want, for free, thanks to tools like Khan Academy, Coursera and Udacity: But people refuse to, and the language is not the only issue. I think we should focus our knowledge into motivating the Teenagers to get interested into this, instead of developing more applications like Poke or a Facetime killer.
And way to take advantage of the myriad of educational opportunities that exist online. I would have done anything for access to them when I was a kid; instead, I had to go to the (gasp) library.
I think we are going to see a growing intellectual gulf between the few that take advantage of these tools and the masses who don't. There are so many opportunities that can really give somebody a significant boost; a much greater boost than was offered to those of us who didn't have much more than books in the past. And I'm always encouraged when I see the kids who do take advantage of it.
Part of the problem is the mindset that creates a false dichotomy between "learning" and "socializing." One consequence of this mindset is the idea or impression that "learning" involves locking oneself in a room, opening a book, and sticking with it until one learns the material.
An example in language acquisition: http://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_kuhl_the_linguistic_genius...
The learning we do throughout our post-infancy lives bears no resemblance to language learning. It is done using that effortlessly-acquired language structure, but in itself it takes hard work and effort. Unlike language, it goes "against the grain" of our evolved instincts. It can indeed be catalysed through judicious social interaction - comparing results, swapping tips, etc. - but the core of adult learning is focused, isolated study. Social environments for learning are a supplement, useful in moderation, but usually destructive and much more likely to result in groupthink, lowest-common-denominator mediocrity, and poor efficiencies in failing to optimise for the wide range of needs and aptitudes distributed among individuals when used in excess.
There's tons of ink spilled about child development and learning, but precious little about adult learning.
I help run Dev Bootcamp so knowing as much about this as I can is really important to me. :)
I have had some experience with attempts to get groups of people to create or work together in groups with little to no structure and it never works. But I have not had much experience with the sort of structured social learning you offer (I think architect schools do a lot of this sort of structured, group creation-cum-learning - might be worth checking out.)
I do think that locking yourself in a room with a book and focussing is important, at least to build the platform of understanding from which you can move to group interactions. That's certainly my preference for the things I teach myself, and I think it is crucial for building basic understanding and confidence with the ideas. Of course there are chokepoints, especially with something like coding where at some point you need to actually start creating, where measured, structured guidance must be immensely helpful. But I think you need a rhythm - independent learning, then taking the problems and confusions you've built up into a social setting, then independent work again - I think real, 100% focus on a problem is a solitary activity. But perhaps from your own experience with DBC you can offer me some counter-examples?
Studying learning is inherently difficult because it requires intelligent people to try and figure out how they got that way. The tendency is to extend personal learning styles upon the population!
In this case, I bet that you learn the best from sitting down and reading a book. I'd double down and suggest that you take incredible notes and that your favourite books are thick with notes and underlined passages.
If I'm correct, it means that you learn best from reading/writing. This is one of the most common learning styles. However, some people are auditory learners (they learn the best during lectures), others are visual learners (they learn best when graphics are used to explain the concepts), and still others are kinesthetic (they learn best from doing).
To complicate matters, these learning styles are far from perfect type theories. In practice, people employ different learning strategies in different situations.
Shouldn't teenage years be spent having fun? :) For some learning is fun (I enjoyed it to a certain extent and used things like iTunes U a lot) but even if there was a way to learn that was fun for everyone most teenagers will still want to go to parties, drink alcohol, and waste time. I think it's a cultural thing more than an aversion to learning and I don't think technology will change it (for the majority of teenagers).
If a kid learns to have just one drink, don't be a junkie, use protection and waste time only judiciously by 18, they will be able to learn more from higher education or career than if they learned it's good to act like a mindlessly hedonistic animal with no concept of the future.
You can spend your first 40 years sticking your tongue into electrical sockets, this is technically some form of learning, but it's not a great way to have a good chance in life. There is all the time in the world to waste and act stupid, after you have the basic bearings of adulthood.
Teenage impulsivity and risk-tasking are reproductively optimal strategies (the actual rates of death and disability from these activities are usually low anyway) even if you like to look down your nose at them. And people who engage in those activities often end up doing just fine in later life, as well-adjusted, popular, confident adults, with a history of sexual success.
Maybe they're not optimal strategies for being a high-performing time-efficient adult, but so what? Natural selection only cares about babes and babies.
A social game to learn a foreign language would be interesting.
I live in Uruguay, right across the border, same median income basically, and a lot of people have smartphones: there's a chinese smartphone with Android made by ZTE for Movistar that is given away for free, and Samsung Galaxy Mini is also free with 15 dollar contracts. Huawei also has a very cheap smartphone.
I have a Samsung Galaxy Ace as well, which is the most popular smartphone as it is among the cheapest handed out by the state telephone company (Antel).
Another very popular smartphone is the very old Galaxy 3 with Android 2.1 or 2.2 (NOT SIII - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samsung_Galaxy_3 )
I can second the fact that Facebook is king here, I have 3 teenager cousins and 2 nephews about dysoco's age, and they use Facebook a lot. Twitter only to follow Justin Bieber and One Direction as well :) .
I also see a lot of ask.fm links, no idea why.