Cell-phone texting has become the preferred channel of basic communication among US teens and their friends, with cell calling a close second, according to findings from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Most Teens Own Cell Phones, Text
Seventy-five percent of 12-17-year-olds now own cell phones, up from 45% in 2004. Those phones have become indispensable tools in teen communication patterns. Fully 72% of all teens, or 88% of teen cell phone users, are text-messagers. That is a sharp rise from the 51% of teens who were texters in 2006. More than half of teens (54%) are daily texters.
Among all teens, the daily use of texting has now overtaken the frequency of every other common form of interaction with their friends. The next-most-common form of communication, talking on a cell phone, is used by 38% of teens on a daily basis.
Interestingly, basic face-to-face communication is only used daily by 33% of teens. Face-to-face communication is still more commonly used by teens every day than other technology-enabled forms of communication such as talking on a landline phone (30%), social networking (25%) and instant messaging (24%). Email, only used every day by 11% of teens, appears to have become a pass? “legacy” technology among the under-18 population.
Teens Send Numerous Texts
The average US teen sends a large volume of text messages per month. Among the 87% of US teens who send at least an occasional text message:
- 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.
- 15% of teens who are texters send more than 200 texts a day, or more than 6,000 texts a month.
- Boys typically send and receive 30 texts a day; girls typically send and receive 80 messages per day.
- Teen texters ages 12-13 typically send and receive 20 texts a day.
- 14-17-year-old texters typically send and receive 60 text messages a day.
- Older girls who text are the most active, with 14-17-year-old girls typically sending 100 or more messages a day, or more than 3,000 texts a month.
- However, while many teens are avid texters, a substantial minority are not. One-fifth of teen texters (22%) send and receive just one to 10 texts a day, or 30 to 300 texts a month.
Unlimited Text Plans Lead to More Texts
Not surprisingly, teens with unlimited text plans send more texts than teens on limited or pay-per-message plans. Three-quarters of teen cell phone users (75%) have unlimited texting. Just 13% of teen cell phone users pay per message. Those with unlimited voice and texting plans are more likely to call others daily or more often. Teens with unlimited texting typically send and receive 70 texts per day, compared with 10 texts a day for teens on limited plans and five texts a day for teens who pay per message.
By analyzing more than 40,000 monthly US mobile bills, Nielsen determined American teens sent an average of 3,146 texts a month each during Q3 2009. Their counterparts 9-12 sent an average of 1,146 monthly texts each, or four per hour not spent asleep or in school. In comparison, the average number of monthly texts sent by all mobile users combined was a little more than 500. In Q4 2009, users 9-12 increased text usage by 8% and almost doubled their text message volume.
About the Survey: This study is based on the 2009 Parent-Teen Cell Phone Survey which obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 800 teens ages 12-17 years old and their parents living in the continental US and on nine focus groups conducted in four US cities in June and October 2009, with teens between the ages of 12 and 18. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The interviews were done in English by Princeton Data Source, LLC from June 26 – September 24, 2009. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies.