Teen summer days: On the cell phone

One in five teens say they can't function without their cell phone, and if forced to choose, would give up TV for it, a new survey says.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read

Potentially forsaking lazy-day activities like cartoons or bike rides, teens are on the cell phone a whopping 3 hours and 45 minutes a day during the summer, according to a survey released Tuesday by Disney Mobile and research firm Harris Interactive. That amount is up more than an hour from the average time U.S. teens spend text-messaging friends and calling mom during the school year, according to the research.

Technically, Harris' survey refers only to teens and tweens (ages 10 to 17) who own a cell phone in the United States. Research firm JupiterResearch estimates that 24 percent of kids ages 10 to 11 own a cell phone, and 38 percent of teens 12 and older have one. (Disney Mobile, which sells a parent-friendly phone for this age group, surely wants these numbers go up.)

According to the Harris findings, text messaging among teens is growing almost as popular as it is overseas, where kids are constantly sending mobile bits and bytes. Forty-four percent of U.S. teens surveyed said that text messaging is their primary form of communication.

All but 4 percent of the 1,500 kids interviewed said they use the phone to touch base with their parents daily, and 20 percent said they use it to talk to their parents at least five times a day. In the sweet department, 40 percent of kids said they call their mom first with good news.

Like many people, teens think they are more polite on the cell phone than they really are. Nine out of 10 teens say they are respectful when using the device, but as many as 65 percent admit that they've used it to make calls and send text messages in the classroom.

Also, more than a quarter of teens said that they've sent text messages at the dinner table, and it's fairly common for them to make or break a relationship through text messages. Fourteen percent have asked someone on a date via text message, and 7 percent have broken up with someone via text.

Finally, one in five teens said they can't function without their cell phone, and if forced to choose, would give up TV for it. Other summer activities would get the ax, too, if teens had to choose between them: one-third said they would stop listening to the radio, playing video games or going to the mall in lieu of giving up the phone.

The survey failed to note that kids do all those activities while on the cell phone now anyway.