Fresh look at teen cellphone use: Pew memo

These aren’t even new numbers on teen mobile phone use, and they’re still eyebrow-raising. Pew/Internet’s researchers looked back over all their data since 2004 in prep for a whole new study they’ll release early next year, and – even in early 2008 – 85% of US 16-year-olds had their own cellphones (71% of all teens did). In 2004, 59% of 16-year-olds owned mobile phones. Let’s look at Pew’s full age spectrum for 2008: 51% of people aged 12, 53% (13), 72% (14), 79% (15), and those aged 17 came in just under 16-year-olds at 84%. The biggest change in cellphone-ownership numbers between 2004 and 2008 was for 12-year-olds: only 18% had phone in ’04, compared to 51% last year. That does suggest that mobile users are getting younger and younger. Here’s the chart.

As a parent, I thought for sure they were all texting more than talking, but maybe that’s only recently (on pins and needles for the new Pew mobile study). [Nielsen Mobile did report last fall that Americans as a whole sent more text messages than made phone calls, starting the first quarter of 2007, according to a New York Times item I blogged about.] In Pew’s 2008 numbers, 94% of teens had used their mobile phones to call friends and 76% have sent text messages, about 20% of them sending text messages daily.

But cellphones aren’t teens’ only social tool, of course. About a quarter (26%) of all teens “send messages (emails, instant messages, group messages) through social-networking sites,” Pew says, “and 43% of teens who use social networks send messages daily. Similarly, another 26% of teens send and receive instant messages on a daily basis and 16% send email every day. And beyond social networking, “77% of teens own a game console like an Xbox or a PlayStation, 74% own an iPod or mp3 player,” 60% use a desktop or laptop computer, and 55% own a handheld gaming device, Pew reports. [Meanwhile, moms haven’t been left in the dusty – they’re flocking to smartphones like iPhones and BlackBerries, CNET reports. Smartphones are the fastest-growing category of phones, and “about 14% of all wireless users who identified themselves as mothers said they owned a smartphone,” up from 8.3% in the first quarter of 2008, CNET adds, citing Nielsen Mobile figures.]

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