On April 20th, Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report on teen mobile phone usage. One of the facts the report revealed is that Teens are becoming more active cell phone users.

They discovered that “72% of all teens – or 88% of teen cell phone users — are text-messagers.”’  In 2006, Pew released a similar report that found about 51% of teens were texters. What is suprising is that the average teen texter sends about 50 texts a day or 1,500 texts a month. Some teens even send over 3,000 texts a month. In comparison Korean teens send about 15-20 text messages a day, and they are known worldwide for being heavy cell phone users. Pew also discovered that there are a significant minority of teens who opt to not be heavy texters. About 22% of teens send and receive just 1-10 texts a day, which is close to an adult texters average daily texts. It is estimated that the change in texting patterns is linked to a change in cell phone plans. More family plans offer users unlimited texting which allows these teens to send and receive as many messages as they want. Texting has now become the number 1 method teens use to stay in contact with friends, out ranking social networks, face to face, and calls on their cell or landline phone.

Teens take the cell phone with them everywhere including to school. A majority of teens (62%) say that they can have a cell phone at school but not in class, and another quarter of teens (24%) attend schools that forbid cell phones altogether. However 84% reported taking their phones with them to school’  multiple times a week. 60% of these teens say they turn their phones on while at school at least once a day and sometimes several times a day. I was fascinated by these statistics, which seem to say that at least 14% of the schools that forbid cell phones still have teens bring cell phones to school. While distracting during classroom lectures, I’m curious to know how teens are using their cell phones during school. Is texting the new way to pass notes in class? Are teens just using phones during lunch and passing periods or is there use during class as well?

Lastly I found it intriguing that cell phones might be helping to provide internet access to teens who do not currently have internet at home. Surprisingly’  21% of teens who do not otherwise go online say they access the internet on their cell phone. When you look at ethnic groups the numbers rise to 35% for Hispanic teens and 44% for African-American teens.’ 
Below is a list of activities teens reported using their phone to do beyond calling and texting:

  • 83% use their phones to take pictures.
  • 64% share pictures with others.
  • 60% play music on their phones.
  • 46% play games on their phones.
  • 32% exchange videos on their phones.
  • 31% exchange instant messages on their phones.
  • 27% go online for general purposes on their phones.
  • 23% access social network sites on their phones.
  • 21% use email on their phones.
  • 11% purchase things via their phones.

Remember none of these statistics relate to teens’ iPod Touch usage, which isn’t considered a cell phone because it lacks the connection to a cellular telephone network. However this is the only distinction that separates an iPhone from an iPod Touch. So these numbers are actually larger for the teen population who frequently use their iPod Touch over wireless networks. 78% of iPod Touch owners are under the age of 25 acording to AdMob‘ a mobile advertising network.’ 

What mobile services does your library offer teens? When I was at PLA I talked with many of the vendors about the services they offer for the mobile phone. Most of the OPACs were working on creating a mobile version of their card catalog. Some vendors like Overdrive are creating mobile sites to access and use their service. I’m not sure how many libraries have created a mobile version of their website. I know my library system hasn’t yet, but it’s something on our radar.’  I know many systems are experimenting with text a librarian services, but as a library community we haven’t quite developed mobile web services. However I’m hopeful that by April 2011 we will have many mobile services to offer.

About Jami Schwarzwalder

Currently a teen librarian with the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA.She is passionate about technology, making, and learning. See what I'm up to at https://about.me/jamischwarzwalder

One Thought on “Teens and Their Cell Phones

  1. Lots of great facts and figures in this, thank you!

    We see a lot of libraries starting out using text messaging for reference, but requests have picked up for further data/info integration with both text messaging and the mobile web/mobile apps. It’s a natural (and exciting) evolution considering how teens, young adults and now us “older” adults use the medium.

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