By Anne Collier
For US teens, texting beats social networking by far for daily communication with peers, according to a Pew/Internet Project report released today. Nearly three-quarters (72%, up from 51% in 2006) of US teens send text messages daily, and 88% of teen cellphone users do. “Half of teens send 50 or more text messages a day, or 1,500 texts a month, and one in three send more than 100 texts a day, or more than 3,000 texts a month,” Pew says. I compared that “mere” 1/3 sending 3,000+ texts a month to Nielsen’s latest numbers, showing all US teen cellphone users sending and receiving 3,146, thinking Pew’s sounded more “reasonable.” But note that Nielsen’s referring to sending or receiving, not just sending. So Pew’s 3,000+ figure is pretty amazing. The sending plus receiving figure for one in three teens could be double, or 6,000, since a single text message is usually just part of a conversation or string of messages.
Pew seems to be saying that girls 14-17 own the space: That “entire cohort” averages 100 messages a day (sending), compared to the third of all teen cellphone users. “The youngest teen boys are the most resistant to texting – averaging 20 messages per day,” Pew found. As for texting vs. other forms of communication (we now need to make distinctions between purely communicating and entertainment or socializing, where digital devices are concerned): Though texting is No. 1 for communicating with peers, voice calls are No. 1 for doing so with their parents. Where social networking’s concerned, Pew says 25% of all teens contact their friends daily via social network site, vs. 54% of all teens who do so via texting. For 15-year-olds, the preferred communication methods with friends fall in this order: texting (54%), talk face-to-face (42%), calling on a cellphone (41%), social network site (40%, and SNSs have features like IM and email), calling via landline (37%), instant messaging (33%), and email (12%).
And communication is obviously not the all of it. Pew reports that teens use cellphones to (good and neutral activities first): “Share stories and photos … entertain themselves when they are bored (just like adults) … micro-coordinate their schedules and face-to-face gatherings … go online to browse, participate in social networks, and check their emails.” Some also use cellphones to “cheat on tests and skirt rules at school and with their parents … send sexts…. Others are sleeping with buzzing phones under their pillows, and some are using their phones to place calls and text while driving.” There’s so much more to this report, which draws on both a survey and focus groups (quantitative and qualitative information), including chapters on how parents and schools regulate cellphone use, attitudes toward cellphones, and the fact that 84% of teen cellphone users had slept with their phones on or right next to their beds. For some that’s because it’s their alarm clock, but staying in touch appears to be the biggest reason: “Teens who use their cell phones to text are 42% more likely to sleep with their phones than cell-owning teens who do not text,” Pew says. Here’s the Washington Post’s coverage.