More Than Text: Mobile Habits of Teens

By July 09, 2009

Texting has been a ubiquitous trend in teen mobile phone usage, bringing with it educational and ethical implications. With 77 percent of thirteen-to-seventeen year olds having their own mobile phone, this population group has well-defined itself as SMS-happy communicators. Today's eMarketer spotlights trends shown in a Nielsen study. SMS usage been increasing steadily for this demographic, but talk time has decreased significantly. Average use per month in the first quarter of 2007 was 435 minutes, which has fallen to 191 minutes in Q1 2009. For text, we have seen a climb from 255 to nearly three thousand (2,899) texts per US teen per month in Q1 2009.

The same Nielsen study from late last month, "How Teens Use Media," showed that only thirteen percent of teen mobile subscribers are allowed a limited number of text messages, as opposed to around twenty percent who have a limited number of voice minutes.

This level of usage has spawned reactions from adults, mostly in the education sector. A Common Sense Media poll referenced in USA Today showed that teens text in class every day, sometimes with the intention of cheating.

Another story from Springfield's State Journal-Register shows that habitual usage of "text-speak" has led to inappropriate leakage of abbreviations and other SMS slang into teen job applications and résumés. Employer opinions are drastically affected by accidental usage of terms such as "LOL" and emoticons.

Beyond texting, teens are still more frequent users of mobile technology. They watch the most video on their phones, nearly twice that of an average user - 6.5 hours per month for teens compared to 3 hours and 37 minutes across all age groups. These hours are mainly spent on music-related content (54 percent) and comedy (48 percent).

US teen mobile Internet usage is the second highest highest in the world - 37 percent access the Internet, less only than China. Mobile adoption is fifty percent for Chinese teens.

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