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Study: Teenagers favor IM over e-mail

As for parents, 13 percent of workers say they have their IM handle printed on their business cards.

Instant messaging is emerging as a favorite communication tool among teenagers and young adults, with a good number of them sending more IMs than e-mails, a new survey says.

Nearly 66 percent of 13- to 21-year-olds say they send more IMs than e-mails, compared with 49 percent last year, according to an America Online-commissioned study of instant messaging trends.

Overall, 38 percent of users say they send as many or more IMs than e-mails.

One-fourth of users would like to see entertainment content within instant messages, while 20 percent want to make phone calls from their messaging service. Already, 33 percent of users send mobile IMs from their cell phones at least once a week. Another 12 percent say they would be interested in an IM-based VoIP service that could replace their primary household phone line, the survey said.

The study is based on a poll of more than 4,000 users, conducted in partnership with Opinion Research Corporation during the last week of September. About 80 million people in the U.S. regularly use IM, AOL said, quoting data from ComScore Media Metrix.

IM is getting popular at work as well, with 58 percent of people using it to communicate with colleagues; 49 percent for getting answers and making business decisions. Some are also using it to deal with clients or "to avoid a difficult in-person conversation." A majority of users at work, 77 percent, feel instant messaging has had a positive effect on their work lives. About 13 percent say they have their IM screen name printed on their business cards.

"Instant messaging is a part of everyday life, with more and more people using their IM service as a starting point for all communications," Chamath Palihapitiya, vice president of AIM and ICQ at America Online, said in a statement. "Usage is spiking, and not just among teens. Parents, grandparents and professionals are all using instant messaging to stay in touch and enhance their day-to-day communications."