Teens prefer texting over phone calls, e-mail

A survey shows that texting is the dominant way teens communicate and they've cut way down on talking on the phone, while e-mailing is practically nonexistent.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
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Year after year, study after study, teens are proving to be texting at an increasing rate. In a new survey by the Pew Internet Research Center, U.S. teenagers are talking on landlines and cell phone less, using more smartphones, and are averaging 60 texts a day--up from 50 in 2009.

"Teens are fervent communicators," senior research specialist at Pew Amanda Lenhart writes in the study. "Straddling childhood and adulthood, they communicate frequently with a variety of important people in their lives: friends and peers, parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, and a myriad of other adults and institutions."

More than 800 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 were interviewed for this Pew survey. Among the major findings were that texting by older teens, boys, and African Americans are leading the increase, SMS messaging is the dominant daily mode of communication, and the typical American teenager is sending and receiving a greater number of texts than in 2009.

Seventy-five percent of all teens text and although boys are SMS messaging at a faster rate, older girls still lead the charge in the sheer amount of texting--with an average of 100 texts a day in 2011, compared with 50 for boys the same age.

Of all forms of communication--including texting, cell phone talking, landline talking, face-to-face socializing, social network messaging, e-mailing, and instant messaging--teenagers use e-mail the least. Compared with texting, which 63 percent of all adolescents say they use to communicate on a daily basis, only 6 percent of teens use e-mail every day.

Talking on both cell phones and landlines has also fallen over the past couple of years, the survey notes. Fourteen percent of teens say they talk daily with friends on a landline, which is down from 30 percent in 2009 and 31 percent they never talk on landlines with friends. Cell phone use isn't much different, 26 percent of teens speak daily with friends on their cell phone, which is down from 38 percent in 2009.

The Pew survey's authors also looked at the use of smartphones and concluded that about one in four teens own one and ownership is highest among older teenagers.

"There are no differences in ownership of smartphones versus regular cell phones by race, ethnicity, or income," the study says. "Teens whose parents have a college education are slightly more likely than teens whose parents have a high school diploma or less to have a smartphone."

A study last June raised the question about whether text messaging had peaked in the face of upcoming messaging services like iMessage and BlackBerry Messenger, which concerned mobile carriers about SMS revenue. However, if teens keep texting at an ever-increasing rate as this Pew survey demonstrates, carriers shouldn't have too much to be worried about.

Pew Internet Research Center