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This chapter addresses the new roles that cell phones play in the communication patterns of teens. Part 1: Text messaging explodes as teens embrace it as a vital form of daily communication with friends.
Text messaging has become an increasingly important part of teens’ overall communication strategy. Text messaging frequency increases as teens age – 35% of 12 year-olds say they text daily, while 54% of 14 year-olds and 70% of 17 year-olds text everyday. Lower income teens are more likely to say that they never send text messages, and higher income teens are slightly more likely to say they send and receive texts every day. Given how vital a mode of communication texting is for teens, it is unsurprising that parents have stepped into the realm of texting a bit more deeply than other adults as a way of keeping the lines of communication open with their child. Given the frequency with which teens text, it follows that they would be sending and receiving a very large number of text messages and the data bear this out. Looking at the other end of the scale, only 2% of teens who text never send or receive messages from their friends.
In keeping with their greater overall levels of interpersonal communication, girls and high school-age teens (ages 14-17) are much more likely than boys or younger teens to interact frequently via text messaging with friends and siblings. This gender trend is reflected in comments from the focus groups about how and how often boys and girls text. The type of cell phone plan a teen has seems to have a relationship to how often teens text their friends. Most teens text their parents at about the same rates, with about 50% of teens saying they text their parents at least once a day. African-American teens are more likely to report frequently texting siblings or other family, as well as significant others. Texting can be used for a myriad of reasons and this study focuses on a handful of dimensions that roughly organize the ways in which teens can communicate with friends and family.
Three-quarters of texting teens use text messaging to exchange information privately – with more than a quarter doing this daily or several times a day. Texting is also a method for managing school work – 70% of teens have used text messaging to do things related to school work, with 23% of teens texting for school at least once a day.
On-the-go micro-coordination42 is another frequently cited reason for texting: 40% of teens who text say they do this at least once a day and often more, and 84% of teens say they use text messaging in this way.
Teens from lower income families earning less than $30,000 annually are less likely than wealthier teens to use text messaging for school work.
While both sexes are likely to send text messages to coordinate meetings or to check in with others, girls are more likely to use texting for socially connecting with others – either just to say hello and chat (59% of girls do this several times a day compared with 42% of boys) or to have long text changes on important personal matters (84% of girls do this, as do 67% of boys). Teens with pre-paid plans are less likely to use text messaging to report their whereabouts. While texting is the most common use of the cell phone among teens, talking on the device is also a central function.
Almost all teens with cell phones (94%) say they use the phone to talk to their friends, and half of teens (50%) say they do this every day. The youngest teen boys ages 12-13 are more likely than other groups to say that on an average day they make no calls on their cell phone, with 9% of those boys reporting no calls, while just 2% of all other teens report making no calls on their phone on a typical day. There are notable differences in the number of calls made on a typical day by race and ethnicity. There is an economic consideration associated with the use of voice, as the type of phone plan a teen has also influences the number of calls they make on the average day. Looking for a moment at the teens who own a cell phone but do not use the voice function, the youngest teen boys are over-represented. When teens use the phone for calling, they are most likely to be calling parents, with 68% of teens with cell phones saying they talk to their parents on their cell phone at least once a day.
Girls are much more likely to talk frequently to their friends on the phone than are boys – 40% of girls with cell phones say they talk to friends several times a day, compared with 26% of boys who talk with friends that frequently.
Older teens with phones are also more likely to talk to friends on their cell phones frequently.
Black teens with cell phones are more likely than whites to say that they talk to friends and siblings on the phone several times a day.
Similar to text messaging, the type of cell phone plan a teen has relates to how frequently she talks on the phone.
As was the case with text messaging, teens primarily use their cell calls to report on their location or check where someone else is. Some teens find the purposes for which they use the phone to be quite different from their parents’ use. African-American teens use the phone more for social interaction; White and Hispanic teens use their cell phones more often for coordination and location sharing.
There are some variations by race and ethnicity in the frequency with which teens use their cell phones to make or receive calls for these different purposes.
When looking at age and gender, younger boys make calls less frequently for almost every purpose. In a counterpoint to the youngest boys, girls are more likely than boys to make calls every day or more often to report on their whereabouts, talk about things related to school work or have long, personal conversations. Teens who report primarily using voice calling when talking to a boyfriend or girlfriend are more likely to report frequent (several times a day) voice calling just to catch up and say hi and for long, important conversations than those teens who say they primarily text message with their significant other.
The economics of a teen’s cell phone plan also relates to how and why they use the phone to make voice calls. It is notable that texting and mobile voice are the most common platforms of communication between friends for all age groups. Looking at the opposite end of the scale, not all teens use all channels, and the type of channel used shifts when comparing the older and the younger teens.
By contrast, many of the younger teens report that they do not use texting to communicate with their friends. Texting has grown enormously in the past 18 months and is the core of teens’ communication with friends. Texting is the form of communication that has grown the most for teens during the last four years. When all forms of communication are taken together, texting emerges as the most common form of social communication for the teens in this study. I mean, texting is really handy if you have to ask somebody a question, but you know that if you call them it is going to be at least an hour long conversation. While texting is the major way teens communicate, it isn’t always the preferred method when talking with different people. Conversely, 78% of text-using teens say they are more likely to use voice communication when they needed to talk to their parents. Text-using teens are split on their preferred method for talking to siblings or other family members; 55% of these teens say they were most likely to talk by voice with brothers, sisters and other family, while 38% say they are most apt to text with other family members.
Texting edges out voice calling as the primary way these teens contacted significant others.
When it comes to choosing a mode of communication to use when reaching out to friends, girls are more likely than boys to text their friends, with 74% of text-using girls saying they primarily text their friends, compared with 59% of text-using boys. Girls who text are more likely to say they primarily text with their parents or guardian than boys, with 22% of girls texting parents compared with 13% of boys.
Texting or talking with siblings or significant others shows little variation by sex, age, race or socio-economic status. Since texting is asynchronous, it does not necessarily command the attention of a conversational partner. Texting is used in situations when it is discourteous, or even prohibited, to talk on the cell phone. The fact that texting is slower than calling means there is not as much a need for spontaneity. Some teens simply prefer to text with friends, for the clarity that words on the screen can bring, and the removal of the awkward moments found in phone conversations. Some people are bad at talking on the phone, like some people just really want silence and don’t really want to talk. Some teens also report choosing texting over calling because it gives them more time to craft a message or respond in tough situations.
As noted earlier in this chapter, after texting, the most common way to contact friends was calling via the cell phone. Looking for a moment at teens who own a cell phone but do not use the voice function, the youngest teen boys are over represented. While texting is the most frequently used form of interaction, some teens prefer talking on their cell phones. The teens in the focus groups said that they, or their parents, preferred voice when there was a need for immediate feedback.
I like to talk because I like to hear, because sometimes on AIM or texting I get mixed up from people’s emotions. See, I would rather, if I’m like [annoyed] or something I would rather call my friends than text them about it. These comments suggest that texting is a form of communication that is used in a broad spectrum of mundane interactions. It is apparent that when this participant needed to shield herself from the reaction of someone whom she thought she had disappointed, the more indirect medium of texting was preferable.
According to the teens in the focus groups, another reason to prefer calling is simply that it is easier. Even teens who are more accustomed to texting often prefer voice when they are composing longer messages. In addition to the challenge of writing the texts, teens say that their parents are not comfortable with the style of the writing. In some cases, the parents show proficiency with texting, and are in frequent contact with their children via this mode of communication. In addition to the frequency of texting, some parents are also advanced in their use of texting lingo.
In some cases, the people with whom the teens wish to communicate do not have a texting subscription. Beyond the cell phone, teens have other arenas for digital communication with their friends.
As with texting, the broad tendency is that older teen girls are more active in this sphere while younger teen boys are more reserved in their use.
All told, about one in three teens reports face-to-face interaction daily with friends outside of school.
Teen boys as well as older teen girls (ages 14-17) are more likely to report daily face-to-face social interaction than are younger teen girls (ages 12 -13).
Teen voice calling is not simply confined to mobile phones – the majority of American families with teens still have a landline telephone in their home and teens take advantage of it. Sometimes use of the landline is the most convenient, sometimes there is a cost consideration, and sometimes there is poor cell phone coverage. Indeed, 26% of teens in this survey reached on a cell phone live in households that do not have a landline phone, and 29% of all families say they receive all or almost all of their calls on a cellular phone.
Younger teen boys (aged 12 and 13) use the landline telephone significantly less than other groups. Instant Messaging (IM): A digital communications tool pushed aside by texting and absorbed by social network sites. All told, 62% of all teens report using instant messaging (IM), while 38% either do not have access or choose not to use it. Instant messaging is a form of communication that has, perhaps, been eclipsed by social network and texting.
Instant messaging is one form of communication for which older teen girls are not the dominant users. It is perhaps not surprising that the more frequently a teen uses the internet, the more likely he is to use instant messaging. One of the aims of the survey was to understand how cell phone use relates to key features of one’s support network. To gain further insight into how these characteristics of one’s support system map onto cell phone use, correlations were run with daily levels of voice calling and text messaging. Responses from the focus groups corroborate these findings in the sense that the cell phone was discussed primarily as a bonding resource for the teens. Beyond text messaging and voice calling, teens reported using several other features of their cell phones. In examining how and how often teens use their cell phones to go online, the survey asked about general internet use, email, and social network sites.
Cell phones help bridge the digital divide by providing internet access to less-privileged teens. When asked whether they ever use the internet from their cell phones, 27% of cell phone users replied yes.
Responses in the focus groups also illustrate how cost is an important factor in whether the internet is included in their service plan, especially for younger teens who are more financially dependent on their parents. Another theme that came out of the focus groups is that, compared with computers, cell phones offer less utility for accessing the internet because of poor user interface and slow performance. The cell phone provides an opportunity to access the internet for a sizable portion of cell phone users who do not go online otherwise.

One notable finding about internet access is that, among teen cell phone owners, 21% of those who do not go online or use email through a conventional computer instead use their phone handset to go online.
A more careful look at how household income relates to going online sheds more light on the situation.
There are also racial and ethnic differences in cell phone-based internet use, with certain minorities being significantly more likely to use their cell phone to go online than white teens. Made of 100% cotton, this unisex flannel will give you that trendy grunge look without sacrificing comfort.
Especially if you are practicing late at night, this glow in the dark design will help everybody see you glow. Use stars or just one star for designs about politics, political, elections, President of the United States, 4th of July, military, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, Air Force, space, galaxy, astronauts, shooting stars and more. Nearly 2 in 5 teens whose families earn less than $30,000 annually say they never use text messaging, compared with just 20% of teens from families earning more than $75,000 per year. More than 7 in 10 (71%) of cell-phone owning parents of teens 12-17 say they send and receive text messages on their cell phones.
The typical text messaging teen sends and receives 50 texts a day, or 1500 text messages a month. While white texting teens typically send and receive 50 texts a day, black teens who text typically send and receive 60 texts and English-speaking Hispanic teens send and receive just 35. The data show that 81% of teens who text are texting with their friends at least once every day. Four in five (80%) cell phone users with an unlimited texting plan texted to friends on a daily basis.
At the same time, girls and older teens are more likely to text brothers, sisters and other family members than boys and younger teens. Three in ten (30%) African-American teens say they text brothers, sisters or other family members several times a day, compared with 14% of white teens and 19% of English-speaking Hispanic teens. Teens were asked about texts that support and maintain relationships and about texts used to coordinate meetings and to report locations.
Another three-quarters of text-using teens also say they have long message exchanges by text to discuss important personal matters. Cell-phone owning teens who have parents who also have phones are more likely to report using text messages to coordinate physical meetings – 42% of parents with cell phones have a teen who reports micro-coordination of in-person meetings at least once a day, compared with 28% of teens with parents who do not have cell phones. Close to half (45%) of poorer teens say they never text about school work, while 30% of all teens say they never text about school assignments. While teens of all ages pick up the phone to say hello and chat with friends, younger teens are less likely to check in with someone to find where they are (81% vs.
Black teens are less likely than white or English-speaking Hispanic teens to report where they are or to check in to find out where someone else is (90% of white and English-speaking Hispanic teens report their location, while 79% of black teens do). Teens with prepaid phone plans are less likely to use their phone to text for certain reasons. And like, the worst thing is like, when people keep calling you or like, it just gets annoying.
Once again, girls are more substantial communicators – 59% of girls with cell phones talk to their friends on their mobile every day, while 42% of boys with cell phones call friends each day. Overall, there is no difference by gender or age in the average number of calls made a day by teens – teens average43 just under 11 calls a day, with a median of 5 calls per day. Sixty-three percent of those teens with unlimited voice subscriptions reported daily voice calling with friends, while 47% of those who had fixed minute subscriptions and 31% of those who had a set amount of money to spend on voice minutes reported making calls to friends daily. The data show that 9% of this group report never making a voice call while only 2% of all other teens report the same.
Talking with friends is a close second to parents, with 59% of teens with cell phones saying they talk with friends once a day or more often.
Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) teens ages 14-17 with cell phones talk to friends several times a day while 22% of younger teens say the same. White teens are more likely to say they talk to friends once a day, and to their siblings and other relatives infrequently – once a week or less often.
The exception is in the case of siblings, where texters are more likely to talk with them by cell phone once a day. Perhaps surprisingly, teens who have an unlimited texting plan are more likely to talk on the phone more frequently with everyone – friends, family and romantic partners.
Just about half of teens with cell phones (49%) say they use mobile voice calling to report their location or check on someone else every day or more often. Among African-American teens, the phone is their hub for social and personal chats, while white teens and to a lesser extent English-speaking Hispanic teens use the phones more frequently for coordination and location sharing. Similarly, older teens ages 14-17 are more likely to say that at least once a day they coordinate meeting someone or discuss location, and are more likely than younger teens to say that they call to discuss school work or have long personal conversations. In this survey, teens report that when socializing or communicating with friends, texting is the most frequent form of interaction. Communicating through social network sites (SNS), landline, face-to-face and instant messaging (IM) cluster somewhat lower in the ordering of communication methods employed by teens. Relatively speaking, there are only marginal differences between older and younger respondents when looking at face-to-face interaction and email. In broad strokes, communication platforms fall into two categories: those that are used by teens of all ages and those that have been adopted by older teens but not younger ones.
While 44% of 12 year-olds say that they do not use texting, only 11% of 17 year-olds report the same. The data show that between 2006 and 2009 the percent of teens who use texting to contact friends outside of school on a daily basis has gone from 27% to 54%. All told, 72% of all teens reported that they have used texting to contact friends and 54% of all teens text their friends on a daily basis. The information exchanged in one call can be the same as that contained in several texts and phone calls are richer social experiences because they convey more emotional information than texts.
When asked to choose, teens were clear about which modes of communication they preferred for talking with different people in their lives.
Just 18% of teens said that they were most likely to text their parents when reaching out and 4% were equally likely to call or text. A bit less than half of texting teens (42%) who have a boyfriend or girlfriend say they primarily text one another, and another quarter (26%) say they mostly talk with their significant other. Younger teens ages 12-13 were more apt than older teens to say they use both methods of communication rather than privileging either text or talk. Nearly 84% of boys mostly talk with parents, while three-quarters (73%) of girls say the same. The one exception is that teens in lower income households are slightly less likely than teens from wealthier families to say they primarily text their significant other.
Texting allows for asynchronous interaction and it is more discrete than making voice calls. Since obviously there is no sound when texting, teens can text their parents when the background noise of their location would give away too much information on their whereabouts.
Since there is not synchronous interaction and since it is somewhat more difficult to construct a text (often more so for parents than for teens), teens use text messaging when they have to break bad news or make an uncomfortable request of their parents.
When texting with potential boyfriends or girlfriends, the delay afforded by texting means that the teen has more control over the pace and tone of the interaction.
Like when I text I can just say what I want to say and I don’t have to constantly be talking. Overall, 72% of all teens, not just those with a cell phone, say they make voice calls on a mobile phone and 38% did so on a daily basis. Looking only at those who had a cell phone, 65% of the older teen girls (14 – 17) said that they used mobile voice.
The data show that 10% of them report never making a voice call while only 2% of the 14 – 17 year-old girls report the same. Sixty-three percent of those teens with unlimited voice subscriptions reported daily use where only 47% of those who had fixed minute subscriptions and 31% of those who had a set amount of money to use, as in pre-paid cell phone plans used voice minutes daily.
They preferred calling when they needed to talk about something that was important or serious.
It is used when there is no need for immediacy or when one is concerned about how their conversation partner is going to interpret and respond to the communication. In those cases where they feel as though they needed to judge the reaction of their conversation partner, voice has an advantage. The teens in the focus groups described using the conference call functionality of the cell phone.
The teens in the focus groups described having several texting threads open simultaneously, each thread a conversation with a different person.
The process of keying in the words, particularly if they are not familiar with word prediction functions such as T9, mean that composing a text message on the cell phone’s keypad can be a laborious process. The teens said that the efficiency of speaking trumps texting when they need to write longer texts or when they need to have many interactions in order to work out an agreement.
If the text interaction is difficult and involves many turns or long, multifaceted passages, it is sometimes easier to call. While it is true that some parents are proficient texters, many teens feel that their parents are not adept texters. Their parents react to their more stylized writing and ask them to use more traditional formulations. Teens were able to avoid a discussion of their spelling and grammar with their parents by using the voice function of the phone.
When another person does not have a texting subscription, it is expensive for them to receive and send messages.
More than a quarter of all teens (26%) reported using social network sites such as Facebook or MySpace to socialize or communicate with their friends daily, while another 38% of all teens never use this form of interaction. Among users of social network sites, 43% of the older teen girls report that they use it on a daily basis to communicate with friends. At the other end of the scale, only about 4% report none of this type of social interaction. Some 35% of the teen boys and 36% of the older teen girls report daily face-to-face interaction outside of school. Nearly one-third (30%) of teens report daily use of the landline telephone to contact their friends. When a teen is at home, they often use the landline phone in order to save the cost of airtime on a cell phone. Overall, 8% of American families with teens ages 12-17 in the household do not have a landline telephone at all.
About one in four of all internet-using teens (26%) uses instant messaging on a daily basis to communicate with friends outside of school. Indeed, many social network sites offer instant messaging functionality for users within the network. One third (32%) of teens who use the internet on a daily basis also make daily use of instant messaging.
When compared with use in 2006, daily email use has declined slightly from 15% of internet users to 11% of internet users in 2009.
There is a positive relationship between voice calling and the size of one’s close personal network, and voice calling is also positively related to using the cell phone as a resource for reaching out to these individuals for social support. Text messaging was especially discussed as a way of staying in contact with their close personal ties. While these areas do not comprise an exhaustive list of activities, they reflect some of the key aspects of mobile internet use among teens in the U.S.
Girls (30%) and boys (24%) both report going online with their handsets, though the difference is not statistically significant.
In other words, the cell phone provides an opportunity to access the internet for a sizable portion of users who do not go online otherwise. On the surface, one might find it surprising that teen cell phone owners in the lowest household income category are most likely to use their handset to go online.
More specifically, 44% of teens whose parents are black and 35% of those with Hispanic parents use their cell phone to go online, as opposed to 21% of teens with white parents.
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Girls are more likely to text than boys with 77% of all girls texting while 68% of boys do. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of all teens from households earning more than $75,000 annually text every day, while 43% of teens from families that earn less than $30,000 text daily. Girls text more than boys do; girls who text typically send and receive 80 texts a day, boys send and receive 30.
The mean number of text messages are similar for these groups (whites average 111 texts a day, blacks 117, and Hispanics 112), suggesting that black teens have a slightly higher baseline level of texting than whites or Hispanics.
Significant others are also major daily texting partners — 46% of teens who have a boyfriend or girlfriend send or receive texts every day with their significant other. But texting may not be as vital for some in maintaining familial relationships, as 20% of teens who text say they never text a parent and 24% never text siblings or other family members.
The data show that 35% of younger teen boys (aged 12 – 13) said that they texted friends on a daily basis. Significantly fewer teens with a limited texting plan texted this often (55%) and only 18% of those who did not have a texting plan use the service to contact friends daily. One in five girls (20%) and 19% of teens ages 14-17 text their siblings several times a day, while 13% of boys and 11% of middle school-age teens text siblings with that frequency. Similarly, more than half (53%) of texting African-American teens say they text their boyfriends or girlfriends several times a day, compared with 37% of white teens and 45% of Hispanic teens. We also asked about texts sent as a way to exchange information privately in situations where voice calling would be inappropriate or unwise.
91% of teens 14-17) or to coordinate meeting someone – 78% of 12-13 year-olds compared with 87% of 14-17 year-olds.
While all teens, regardless of plan, are likely to text to say hello, to have long text exchanges or to text about school work, teens with prepaid plans are less likely than teens with family plans to check in with others or to report their locations to someone else.

High school-age teens are also more likely than middle school-age teens to talk on their cell phone with friends daily – 56% of high schoolers talk daily on their cell phone, as do 35% of middle schoolers. The only variance in the median is among younger teens ages 12-13 who typically make or receive 3 calls per day. White teens typically make 4 calls a day, or around 120 calls a month, while black teens make 7 calls a day, or about 210 calls a month, and Hispanic teens make 5 calls a day, or about 150 calls a month. Teens with a fixed number of voice minutes per month typically make 5 calls a day, while teens with a set amount of money to use on minutes make 3 calls a day and teens with unlimited minutes typically make 5 calls a day.44 Whether a teen pays for his phone bill also affects the volume of calling. Older teens are also more likely to talk with siblings, other family and significant others multiple times during the day. There are no differences by gender, age or race in the frequency of talking to parents on a cell phone. Less surprisingly, teens with unlimited voice minutes are more likely to talk frequently with friends and boyfriends or girlfriends.
African-American and Hispanic teens are more likely to use their phones frequently for school work than white teens, who still use it for this purpose, but less often. Just 7% of boys this age say they make calls just to chat several times a week, compared with 17% of older boys and 21% of girls of any age. Teens with unlimited texting plans are also frequent users of voice calling for coordination, checking in with someone, school work or long discussions – everything but calling just to say hi. Indeed, when looking at all teens regardless of their access to either a mobile phone or the internet, 54% report using texting on a daily basis in order to socialize or communicate with friends. Landline telephony and face-to-face interaction represents the first group: roughly equal numbers of teens in all age groups report using landlines and interacting with friends face-to-face outside of school, though older teens tend do so a bit more frequently than younger teens. While other material in the survey shows that texting has become a central form of interaction for teens, it is also important to remember that not all U.S. Face-to-face contact, instant messaging, mobile voice and social network messaging have remained flat during the same period, while use of email and the landline phone have decreased slightly. You don’t have the time or you are not really in the mood to have a huge conversation. For friends, who for most teens make up the bulk of their conversational partners, text messaging was dominant, with 67% of text-using teens saying they are more likely to use their cell phone to text a friend than to call. Just 9% of teens say they use both, and an additional 7% said they use neither text nor talk to primarily communicate with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Teens with dial up connections at home are also more likely to text their friends, with 81% saying they primarily text, compared with 65% of teens with a home broadband connection. Teens with parents who have less than a high school education or who are Hispanic are also less likely to say they text with parents than those with more education or white teens.
Texting can be a buffer when dealing with parents and can be safer when interacting with potential romantic partners. In some cases texting can be a type of advanced note-passing to people who are close by or in the same room.
However, if the teens are simply checking in with one another, texting is an easy way to touch base.
There is an immediacy and a fullness to voice interaction that is not often possible with texting, and talking provides teens with more social cues allowing them more nuanced interaction. So most of the time you usually call your parents but with friends you just text pretty much.
When there is a pressing need to contact another person, or when there is the danger that a text will be misunderstood, then calling is preferred. Yet in texting, multi-party conversations are most often a set of one-on-one exchanges, thus it is easier to conduct group conversation by voice. I can probably do that like twice or three times a day, and it still has some left over from the night, so I just start going over it in the morning. Social network sites are used for interpersonal interaction, but also to organize larger events, while the cell phone is for more personal interaction. By contrast, only 29% of the younger teen boys use social network sites to communicate with their friends daily. On a weekly basis, 85% of the teens report that they have non-school face-to-face social interaction.
And as we see with other communication channels, those who use the cell phone are also intense users of the landline phone. Among internet users, 29% of the older teen boys and girls (14-17 year-olds) and 25% of the younger teen boys (12 -13) use instant messaging on a daily basis. Fully 41% of all teens say that they never use email when communicating with their peers outside of school. The teachers are like ridiculous with that especially if they have your parents’ email.
They were also asked how many of these close personal ties they contact through the cell phone for social support.
The ensuing sub-sections provide more detailed analysis of the usage patterns associated with these technological affordances. With 73% of teen cell phone users not going online with their cell phones, it is clear that the computer is still their primary resource for using the internet.
However, this might be explained by the fact that members of the lowest income category are also the least likely to have a computer in the home. Try adding your name or if you are going to get this as a gift for a friend, add an inside joke!
Between February 2008 and September 2009, daily use of text messaging by teens shot up from 38% in 2008 to 54% of all teens saying they text every day in 2009.
Older girls ages 14-17 are the most avid texters – 69% say they text their friends every day, while 53% of boys the same age report daily texting. Older teens text more than younger ones: Teens ages 12-13 who text send and receive 20 texts a day, while high school-age teens typically send and receive 60 text messages a day. There are no significant socio-economic differences in the average numbers of texts sent a day by teens in different groups. Interestingly, the analysis also shows that 27% of cell phone-owning teens with a boyfriend or girlfriend never send or receive texts from them. This compares with 44% of teen girls of the same age, 53% of the older teen boys (aged 14 – 17) and 69% of the older teen girls who said that they texted to their friends on a daily basis. Teens ages 14-17 are somewhat more likely to text a boyfriend or girlfriend several times a day than younger teens (45% vs. Finally, teens were asked about how text messaging is used as a part of school work done outside of school. This difference is most likely attributable at least in part to the greater mobility of older teens. Teens who pay their entire phone bill themselves make 7 calls on a typical day, while teens who pay part of the cost make 5 calls and teens who pay none of the cost for their cell phone make 4 calls a day. Brothers, sisters and other family members are the least likely to be called on daily basis, with just about a third of teens who have siblings (33%) saying they talk at least once day.
The latter is partly due to the fact that older teens are more likely to have a significant other than younger teens. Calls made to discuss school work are also fairly common: 22% do this on at least a daily basis, though 26% say they never call for this reason.
Teens with plans where they have a set amount of money to use on the phone per month are also more likely to say they call people several times a day to say hello and chat. Comments from the focus groups indicate that texting is a quick and functional way to ask questions or to coordinate interaction. Finally, it is a simple way to keep up with friends when there is nothing special that needs to be communicated. It gives them the possibility to interlace the communication into other parts of their lives.
I usually text her everything else I want her to know so I don’t have to hear [her voice]. This issue can arise in mundane interactions like disagreements with friends, as well as in romantic situations.
In addition, texting can be too laborious and some people, usually parents, are out of the texting loop. One high school girl in the focus groups said, “I think Facebook is really [more] dominant than the phone for like, big activities.
Interestingly, internet users are also more active than non-internet users in face-to-face interaction: 34% of those who use the internet report daily face-to-face interaction, while only 18% of those who do not use the internet reported the same.
But otherwise we would have cancelled it a long time ago, everybody who lives in the house has a cell phone. Since 2006, instant messaging by teens has remained flat, with 30% of teens instant messaging daily in 2006 compared with 26% of teens who message daily in 2009. Further, the data reflect that only about half as many younger teen girls use instant messaging (12%). While not used often for informal peer interactions, email is used in more formal situations such as in school and by parents and other adults. Half of teens report having 5 or more close personal ties, with the remaining teens reporting fewer ties. However, unlike voice calling, text messaging is not significantly related to tapping into those relationships for social support through the cell phone. Looking at the breakdown according to age, the figure above shows that older teens with cell phones are more likely to go online with their cell phones than younger users. That is, the cell phone appears to be a viable alternative for internet access for some teens living in households that cannot afford computers. Older girls are the most active texters, with 14-17 year-old girls typically sending and receiving 100 text messages a day, or more than 3000 texts a month. Our analysis shows that 48% text with their parents at least once a day and 33% of those who have siblings text with them on a daily basis. The mirror image of the same pattern is seen among teens who say that they never text with friends.
27%), but much of this variation is mostly like due to a greater likelihood of older teens having a significant other. Older teens are also more likely than younger teens to do things related to school work with text messages, to have long exchanges about important personal matters and to text in order to exchange information privately.
A small portion of teens (10%) who have a cell phone and say they do not text at all also say that they do not make or receive any phone calls in the average day. Teens who pay for their cell phone out of their own pockets are much more likely to talk with significant others frequently through the day – 55% of teens who pay for their phones talk with a boyfriend or girlfriend several times a day, compared with 24% of those who partly pay and 26% of those who do not pay their cell phone bill.
Teens also place long voice calls to discuss important personal matters: Some 19% of teen cell users participate in such calls on at least a daily basis, though 36% make these kinds of calls less than a few times a week and 23% report never making this type of call. Further down the list are interacting with friends face-to-face outside of school (33%), talking on a landline telephone (30%), communicating daily via social network sites (25%), and instant messaging (24%). I guess I would text sometimes if I have to tell someone that I’m not going to be able to make it or something like that, or decline an offer.
This facilitates the interaction, though, as the comments indicate, it can become awkward when too many people try to speak at once. So when I’m texting I have to press the letter twice or something if I want a certain letter. These findings offer evidence of how the cell phone helps to maintain larger networks of close personal ties, and, in the case of voice calling, it serves as a resource for social support when teens need to discuss personal matters. This difference may reflect a difference in disposable income to pay for Mobile internet connectivity, as many teens begin earning their own money through summer jobs and part-time employment during the school year as they grow older.
In general, a little more than one-fifth of teens who text (22%) send and receive between 1-10 texts a day (i.e.
The data show that 40% of the youngest teen boys, 36% of the youngest girls, 28% of the older teen boys and 17% of the oldest girls said that they never text friends. More than a quarter of texting teens say they check in several times a day and another quarter do it at least once a day. Interestingly, while 20% report never texting their parents, only 4% of teens with cell phones say that they never call their parents or guardians. Of course, it is difficult to disentangle whether these behaviors are what drives users to select certain plans or a result of the plan selected.
Email was the least used communication activity, with only 11% reporting that they use it on a daily basis. Among 12 year-olds, 17% used mobile voice to talk with friends while 60% of the 17 year-olds reported the same.
By contrast, hearing another person’s voice provides a more direct gauge of their emotional state. Nonetheless, the teens, and in particular the teen girls, felt comfortable making multi-party calls so that they could chat with a collection of their friends.
Teens with their own separate service plan are more likely to use the cell phone to go online (39%) than those who are covered by a family plan (26%), further suggesting that as they grow more independent, teens use their resources to expand their use of the cell phone. Thus while intergenerational texting is not necessarily uncommon, voice interaction between parent and child via the mobile phone is substantially more common. The differences between groups for social network sites, instant messaging, and landline telephony were less than with mobile telephony but more than in the case of face-to-face interaction and email. As noted elsewhere in this report, older teens are more likely to text their friends on a daily basis.
In addition, they are more likely to use text messaging (and the cell phone more broadly) for social support. At the other end of the scale, about 14% of teens send between 100-200 texts a day, or between 3000 and 6000 text messages a month. Girls are more likely than boys to text their friends on a daily basis and to use text messaging as a means for social support. Another 14% of teens send more than 200 text messages a day – or more than 6000 texts a month. In light of these findings, it is not surprising that three-quarters of teens (75%) have an unlimited text messaging plan.

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