• Teens, Cell Phones and Texting

    • by Amanda Lenhart, Senior Research Specialist, Pew Internet & American Life Project
      April 20, 2010

    • Cell-phone texting has become the preferred channel of basic communication between teens and their friends, with cell calling a close second. Some 75% 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 teens2 — 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.

    • Fully two-thirds of teen texters say they are more likely to use their cell phones to text their friends than talk to them to them by cell phone.

      • Some 38% of teens were daily texters in February 2008, and that has risen to 54% of teens who use text daily in September 2009. Of the 75% of teens who own cell phones, 87% use text messaging at least occasionally. Among those teen texters:

        • 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.

    • Girls more fully embrace most aspects of cell phone-based communication.

      • Girls are also more likely than boys to text for social reasons, to text privately and to text about school work.

        • 59% of girls text several times a day to "just say hello and chat"; 42% of boys do so.
        • 84% of girls have long text exchanges on personal matters; 67% of boys have similar exchanges.
        • 76% of girls text about school work, while 64% of boys text about school.

      • 64% of parents look at the contents of their child’s cell phone and 62% of parents have taken away their child’s phone as punishment.
      • 46% of parents limit the number of minutes their children may talk and 52% limit the times of day they may use the phone.
      • 48% of parents use the phone to monitor their child’s location.3
      • Parents of 12-13 year-old girls are more likely to report most monitoring behavior.
      • Limiting a child’s text messaging does relate to lower levels of various texting behaviors among teens. These teens are less likely to report regretting a text they sent, or to report sending sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images by text (also known as "sexting").
      • Teens whose parents limit their texting are also less likely to report being passengers in cars where the driver texted behind the wheel or used the phone in a dangerous manner while driving.

      • 12% of all students say they can have their phone at school at any time.
      • 62% of all students say they can have their phone in school, just not in class.
      • 24% of teens attend schools that ban all cell phones from school grounds.
      • Still, 65% of cell-owning teens at schools that completely ban phones bring their phones to school every day.
      • 58% of cell-owning teens at schools that ban phones have sent a text message during class.
      • 43% of all teens who take their phones to school say they text in class at least once a day or more.
      • 64% of teens with cell phones have texted in class; 25% have made or received a call during class time.

    • Teens from low-income households, particularly African-Americans, are much more likely than other teens to go online using a cell phone.

      • 21% of teens who do not otherwise go online say they access the internet on their cell phone.
      • 41% of teens from households earning less than $30,000 annually say they go online with their cell phone. Only 70% of teens in this income category have a computer in the home, compared with 92% of families from households that earn more.
      • 44% of black teens and 35% of Hispanic teens use their cell phones to go online, compared with 21% of white teens.

      • 94% of parents and 93% of teens ages 12-17 with cell phones agreed with the statement: "I feel safer because I can always use my cell phone to get help." Girls and mothers especially appreciate the safety aspects of cell ownership.
      • 94% of cell users ages 12-17 agree that cell phones give them more freedom because they can reach their parents no matter where they are.

      • 83% use their phones to take pictures.
      • 64% share pictures with others.
      • 60% play music on their phones.
      • 46% play games on their phones.
      • 32% exchange videos on their phones.
      • 31% exchange instant messages on their phones.
      • 27% go online for general purposes on their phones.
      • 23% access social network sites on their phones.
      • 21% use email on their phones.
      • 11% purchase things via their phones.

      • 69% of teen cell phone users have a phone that is part of a contract covering all of their family’s cell phones.
      • 18% of teen cell phone users are part of a prepaid or pay-as-you-go plan.
      • 10% of teen cell phone users have their own individual contract.

      • 5% of teens say they have received a sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude image of someone they know by text.
      • Older teens are more likely to receive "sexts" than younger teens.
      • The teens who pay their own phone bills are more likely to send "sexts": 17% of teens who pay for all of the costs associated with their cell phones send sexually suggestive images via text; just 3% of teens who do not pay for or only pay for a portion of the cost of the cell phone send these images.

      • One in three (34%) texting teens ages 16-17 say they have texted while driving. That translates into 26% of all American teens ages 16-17.

        • Half (52%) of cell-owning teens ages 16-17 say they have talked on a cell phone while driving. That translates into 43% of all American teens ages 16-17.
        • 48% of all teens ages 12-17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.
        • 40% say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.

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