June 9, 2010

Neighbors Online

Part 2: Local information alerts

One in five Americans have signed up for email or text message alerts about local issues

One in five Americans (22%) have signed up to receive alerts about community issues via text or email. This includes anyone who has signed up for alerts about one or more of the following issues:

  • School events, such as school closings (13% of all adults have signed up for such alerts)
  • Warnings about bad weather (11%)
  • Crime in one’s neighborhood (5%)
  • Traffic congestion or road closings (4%)

These different activities are discussed in more detail below.

School events

Just over one in ten adults (13%) have signed up for alerts about school events, such as school closings. Fourteen percent of email users have signed up for email alerts about school issues (that represents 10% of all adults) and 9% of text messaging users have signed up to receive such alerts on a mobile device (this represents 6% of all adults).%%FOOTNOTE%%

Not surprisingly, school-related alerts are especially popular among adults with children living at home. One-quarter of all parents (26%) have signed up for some kind of school alert, compared with just 6% of non-parents. Other groups that tend to use school alerts more than the overall average include 30-49 year olds (20%), college graduates (20%) and those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more per year (24%).

Chart: school alerts by parents and non parents

Weather updates

When it comes to local issues that people want to be alerted about, bad weather warnings are nearly as common as school updates—11% of all adults have signed up to receive alerts warning them of inclement weather. One in ten email users (10%, representing 8% of all adults) and 9% of phone texters (representing 5% of all adults) have signed up for weather alerts via email and text messaging, respectively.

Bad weather tends to impact everyone regardless of gender, income, geographic location or parental status—accordingly, there are few major demographic differences when it comes to signing up for weather updates or alerts.

Crime and traffic alerts

Compared with schools and weather, relatively few Americans currently sign up to receive updates about crime in their neighborhood (5% do so) or traffic congestion and road closings (4%).

Overall there are relatively few demographic differences when it comes to the use of email or text alerts to get traffic and crime information. The primary difference relates to geographic location—crime alerts are more common in urban areas than in rural ones. Among email or text messaging users, 9% of urban residents have signed up for some sort of crime alert, more than double the rate for rural residents (4% of whom have done so). College graduates are also somewhat more likely to sign up for these types of alerts than those with a high school degree or less.

Chart: local alerts by geographic location