Talking with teens is perhaps the fastest way to get a handle on Generation Y. To that end, Shopping Center World facilitated a roundtable discussion with Seventeen magazine's Teen Advisory Board. The "virtual" chat, conducted via e-mail, centered around the role of the shopping mall and the impact of the Internet on teen shopping habits. The answers may surprise some. According to many members of the Teen Advisory Board, online shopping simply cannot replace the mall shopping experience. But one board member - the youngest respondent - was a self-declared frequent flyer on the online shopping websites. The girls also had some requests for teen-friendly strategies that they'd like to see implemented at malls.

SCW: For older generations, the shopping mall has long been viewed as a great place for teens to hang out, socialize and find out about the latest fashions. How does your generation view the shopping mall? How does the shopping mall compare in popularity to other favorite teen hangouts?

Teens today are as mall-crazed as the generations prior, if not more so. Although outdoor shopping arenas are popular in Los Angeles, shopping malls tend to be the best pick for a typical Friday night.

- Nora Salim, 15

I think that we view the mall as exactly what it is: a place to shop. My friends and I generally don't go to the mall just to go. We go to buy clothes to wear to our favorite hangouts. The mall doesn't even compare to the other places we hang out at, like pool halls.

- Ebony Monique Barrett, 18

I would say that shopping malls have declined in popularity because they aren't open past 9 o'clock.

- Alissa Lofredo, 18

The mall is a pretty outdated hangout spot once you've passed the age of 14. After that, dating and other things start taking up more time.

- Ricci Marie Montes, 15

In my town, the mall is actually very small and doesn't have many stores that appeal to teens. We stick to purchasing on the Internet, out of town (at better malls) or from catalogs (i.e., dELiA*s). The shopping mall is still cool to hang out at, I think, but shopping on the web is catching up to it. It's just as easy to click a mouse than to get in your car and drive over to the mall.

- Markelle Gray, 14

SCW: Before you go shopping, do you use the Internet as a "pre-shopping tool" - to search websites for the latest fashions, sales, or to find out which stores are located at a certain mall? If you do use the Internet as a pre-shopping tool, how often do you use it?

I often use the Internet as a pre-shopping tool, especially when going out of town. I frequently go to websites with information as to what shops are in certain malls, etc. I look on different store websites to see what kind of products they have.

- Markelle, 14

Sometimes I do use the Net, but it is only when I go shopping out of town. When I use the Net, it is to see if a mall has certain stores.- Ebony Monique, 1 8

Although I'm not a dot.com fanatic, I occasionally check out the Neiman Marcus and Vogue websites to get a peek at the upcoming (fashion) seasons. If I'm bored out of my mind, I'll browse around to see the latest collections from designers I can't find at most shopping centers, like Yohji and D&G. I use the Internet as a casual source of fashion information but tend to opt for a magazine or a visit to the store.

- Nora

I don't really use the Internet as a shopping tool. I occasionally visit brand-name sites, or try to find where I can find a certain article of clothing.

- Alissa

I don't use the Internet. I get ideas from magazines and television.

- Ricci Marie

SCW: When you visit the mall, which types of items are you most likely to buy? Conversely, when you shop online, which items are you most likely to buy?

I never shop on-line because it deprives me of the whole shopping experience. I like to see, touch, feel, get a grasp of the actual colors and textures.

- Nora

I do not shop online, but at the mall I am most likely to buy shoes and purses. I have an obsession with buying shoes.

- Ebony Monique

When I visit the mall I am most likely to buy items that catch my eye and that I can try on and are pretty cheap. Online, I only buy the cheap stuff, and I am wary about sizes that might not fit.

- Markelle

At the mall I usually buy just clothes. Sometimes I'll buy jewelry, but I don't really wear a lot of jewelry. Shoes and skirts in the summer, jeans, pants and shirts in the winter.

- Ricci Marie

At the mall, I'm more likely to buy jeans and pants because I can try them on. Basically, I won't buy any clothes or shoes online because I can't try them on first. Online, I'll buy CDs and accessories.

- Alissa

SCW: On average, how many visits per month do you make to a shopping mall? On average, how much do you spend per month on personal items, such as clothes, shoes, makeup, CDs, books and entertainment?

I make at least five trips a month to the mall. I spend about $50 to $75, depending on the month. I spend more in the summer than winter.

- Ebony Monique

I usually go shopping once or twice a week, spending $200 to $300 a month on clothes, makeup and books. I usually mooch off of my parents for entertainment so I have no idea how much I spend (not that much, though, unless it's summertime).

- Nora

I'd say anywhere from $100 to $200 a month combined. I go to the mall probably about two or three times a month, but I usually don't buy a lot of things and the things I do buy are always on sale.

- Ricci Marie

I make about two visits or less per month to a shopping mall. On an average per month, I spend about $30 on personal items.

- Markelle

I go to the mall a bit - maybe a good 10 times a month. I spend about $80 on clothing, etc.

- Alissa

SCW: In your opinion, what can shopping malls do to enhance the shopping experience for teenagers? Special events and entertainment? More stores selling merchandise for teens? More digital technology?

Live entertainment for teens would be the most efficient way to attract teens to the local mall. If more beatnik-style coffeehouses and underage clubs opened up, sales would definitely go up in all the stores. Music is the key ingredient to an enhanced atmosphere for teens

- Nora

Offering more stores and not being so suspicious when teenagers walk into the store would definitely help.

- Ricci Marie

Shopping malls can really enhance the shopping experience for teens by providing special promotions, events, etc., that target the teen population. I think more clothing stores for teens besides just novelty shops and shoe stores would be an improvement as well. Our mall is full of shoe stores and athletic places.

- Markelle

(Malls) need more special events. I haven't had any at my mall, so it gets kinda boring. Also, they need some more places where we can just sit and chill.

- Alissa

More sales. More things to do besides shop, such as entertainment. Definitely more merchandise geared toward teens.

- Ebony Monique

SCW: In terms of shopping and fashion, what makes your generation different from older generations, such as Generation X?

One main thing is that the Internet is changing the way we shop a lot. We can now buy a whole wardrobe with the click of a mouse.

- Markelle

Style has merged into other areas besides clothing: hair, makeup, accessories, shoes, even a yellow iMac. Beauty is undefined, leaving teens liberated in what they can wear. Clothing has become more than the essentials - it has branched out to an art form, a means of self-expression.

- Nora

Our generation, I think, has a tendency to take styles too far. I especially think that our generation has gotten a lot more comfortable wearing a lot less.

- Ricci Marie

What makes us different is our ability to try new things. We will wear funky clothes regardless of what anyone else is wearing, and it is much more acceptable than before.

- Alissa