Texting among teens continues to grow while voice calling declines; 23% of teens own a smartphone

Washington – The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project is releasing a new report today titled “Teens, Smartphones and Texting” that examines changes in teens’ communication habits over the last five years, with a particular focus on mobile devices.

Some main themes from the report:

  • Texting continues to cement its place as the central communications tool of teen social life  – the frequency and overall volume of texts are both up since 2009.
  • Voice calling on both mobile phones and (in some circumstances) on landlines is in decline.
  • The heaviest texters are also the heaviest talkers. Teens who text the most are also the most likely to make calls, talk with people face to face outside of school, and use social network sites.
  • One quarter of teens have a smartphone. The oldest teens (ages 16 and 17) are the most likely to report smartphone ownership. Otherwise, there are few demographic differences between smartphone and regular cell phone owners.
  • Smartphone owners are more likely than regular phone owners to: use tablets to go online; use a location-based service on their cell phone, use social media sites, send and receive texts on a typical day.
  • Only a small fraction of American teens use location-based services on their cell phones – 6% of teens 12-17 use the services to share their location.

“Mobile devices increasingly dominate teens’ communicative lives,” said Amanda Lenhart, a Senior Research Specialist at the Pew Research Center and the author of the report. “Teens continue to privilege texting while their use of email, instant messaging and even voice calling has moved to the background.”

The report is based on data collected as a part of a study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in partnership with the Family Online Safety Institute and supported by Cable in the Classroom. The data discussed are the result of a three-part, multi-modal study that included interviews with experts, seven focus groups with middle and high school students, and a nationally representative random-digit-dial telephone survey of teens and parents. The survey was fielded April 19 through July 14, 2011, and was administered by landline and cell phone, in English and Spanish, to 799 teens ages 12-17 and a parent or guardian. The margin of error for the full sample is ±5 percentage points.

About the Pew Internet & American Life Project

The Pew Internet & American Life Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world. The Pew Internet Project explores the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life.  The Project is nonpartisan and takes no position on policy issues. Support for the Project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. More information is available at www.pewresearch.org/internet.