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Pew report: Teenage texting up, epic phone calls down

March 19, 2012|By Deborah Netburn | Los Angeles Times
  • Can you text through a viewing of "Heathers"?
Can you text through a viewing of "Heathers"? (New World Pictures )

The summer after seventh grade, Danny Fleming and I spent an uninterrupted seven hours on the phone together -- our personal record.

He had three-way calling, so we got some other people into the mix, but Danny and I were the constant. We watched the entire "Heathers" movie over the course of that phone call, and he might have read me a whole book of fart jokes too.

Those were the days!

But the epic teenage telephone call may be a thing of the past. A new report by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project has found that as the frequency of teenage texting continues to increase, teen use of the phone is on a significant downslide.

Kids, you don't know what you are missing!

In interviews with 799 teenagers ages 12 to 17, researchers found that 63% of teens say they exchange text messages with friends every day, while only 29% say they talk daily with friends on a cellphone.

As for the land line, it appears to be disappearing from the teenage communication repertoire entirely: Only 14% say they talk to friends on land lines every day, and nearly 31% said they never talk to friends on a land line.

At the same time, the amount of texts that teens send is growing. The median number (midpoint in the user sample) of texts sent on a typical day by teens 12 to 17 is now 60, up from 50 in 2009.

And for girls, that median number is 100.

This came as no surprise to one colleague who said his teenage daughter averaged a total of 6,000 texts a month. He said his phone bill, which included a physical record of each of those texts, was 25 pages long.

According to the report, the frequency with which kids are texting has not changed from 2009 for white teens but has grown considerably for black teens, who are sending a median of 80 texts a day (up from 60 in 2009), and Hispanic kids, who are sending a median of 100 texts a day.

Instant Messaging, which was a popular form of teen communication in the last decade, has also seen a major decline. Only 22% of teens say they use the service on a daily basis.

Anyone else feeling old?

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Pew report: Teenage texting up, epic phone calls down

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