Teens Are Text-Crazed, 23% Own Smartphones


The love affair between teens and texting is deeper than ever. New findings from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project show that 63% of U.S. teens were text-messaging daily as of July 2011, up from 54% in September 2009. The volume of texting has also grown, from 50 to 60 messages for the typical teen during that period.

Much of that increase has come as a result of older teens (14-17) ramping up from a median of 60 texts in 2009 to 100 last year. Boys of all ages also increased texting volume from a median of 30 texts daily in 2009 to 50 in 2011. Black teens showed a similar increase, from 60 messages per day to 80 in the last two years.

Older girls remained the top texters, however, with a stream of 100 messages a day in 2011, compared to half as many for boys of the same age.

The daily exchange of texts among almost two-thirds of teens far surpasses other types of daily communication including calling by cell phone (39%), face-to-face socializing outside of school (35%), social network messaging (29%), instant messaging (22%), talking via landline (19%) and emailing (6%).

The growing popularity of texting is eating further into phone conversations overall. Fourteen percent of teens talk daily on landlines, down from 30% in 2009, and almost a third (31%) of teens say they never talk on a traditional phone line with friends. Only 26% talk daily with friends on cell phones, down from 38%.

The heaviest texters are also the heaviest talkers, however. Some 69% of heavy texters (exchanging more than 100 texts a day) talk daily on their cell phones, compared with 46% of medium texters (21-100 texts a day) and 43% of light texters (0-20 texts a day). That can’t be welcome news for parents who are footing the family wireless bill.

The Pew report also showed that about one in four (23%) of teens have a smartphone. There are no differences in ownership of smartphones compared to regular cell phones by race, ethnicity, or income. Teens whose parents are college-educated are slightly more likely than teens with less educated parents to have a smartphone (26% versus 19%).

More than three-quarters (77%) of all teens own a cell phone, about the same as in 2009.

When it comes to tablets, about 16% of teens used the devices to go online in the last 30 days. Some 30% of smartphone users have used tablets in the past month, while 13% of regular phone users and 9% of those without cell phones have done the same.

The study found that only a small proportion (6%) of teens is using location-based services on cell phones. In that vein, 18% of smartphone users shared their location compared with 8% of regular phone owners and 2% of all other teens. Older teens, at 9%, are most likely to use location services like Foursquare.

The research results were based on phone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 799 teens ages 12 to 17 and their parents conducted in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from April 19 to July 14, 2011. The margin of error for the weighted data is plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

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