A Pew Internet and American Life Project report out this week has found that text messaging has increased sharply among American teens. American teens who text everyday has shot up in the past 18 months from 38% in February of 2008 to 54% in September 2009.

In fact, text messaging has become the most frequent way that teens reach their friends, surpassing face-to-face meetings, email, instant messaging and voice calling as a daily communications tool. However, cell phone calling is still the preferred mode that teens use to connect with their parents.

The Pew report finds that teens are sending enormous quantities of text messages each day. The typical American teen sends and receives 50 or more messages per day, or 1,500 per month. And there are a sizeable number who do much more than that:
  • 31% of teens send and receive more than 100 messages per day or more than 3,000 messages 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.
  • Older girls who text are the most active, with 14-17 year-old girls typically sending 100 or more mes sages a day or more than 3,000 texts a month.
  • While many teens are avid texters, a notable minority are not. One-fifth of teen texters (22%) send and receive just 1-10 texts a day or 30-300 a month.

“The widespread availability of unlimited texting plans has transformed communication patterns of American teens, many of whom now conduct substantial portions of their daily conversations with their friends via texting,” said Amanda Lenhart, Senior Researcher at the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and a co-author on the report. “But what’s important to remember here is that this is a shift in the location and style of teens’ communication with friends, not necessarily a radical change or expansion of it.”

The survey found that 75% of those ages 12-17 now have cell phones, up from 45% in 2004. These cell users place calls on their phones much less often than dashing off texts. Teens typically make about five calls per day on the cells. But they still prefer to deal with their parents by calling them, rather than texting them.

“These findings show that in a very short time cell phones have moved from being a fancy toy in a few teens’ lives to favored communications hubs for most teens that are vitally important to nourishing their ties to friends and coordinating complicated family lives,” said Rich Ling, co-author of the report and a professor at the IT University of Copenhagen and affiliated with the University of Michigan. “The changes in communications patterns are not smooth, though, because teens’ use of cell phones disrupt traditional social relations and social expectations.”

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