“Take the F train from Manhattan to Brooklyn and you will experience a phone phenomenon, of sorts. As the subway lurches above ground for a stretch of two stations, teens immediately get on their cell phones, frantically sending text messages, checking voicemail and making calls as if their lives depended on it, before the train descends back into the darkness of the tunnel.
Many exec-types, sporting BlackBerrys, display a similar zeal to stay in touch during those brief moments of commuter connectivity, but their devices generally don't play hip-shaking tunes when they ring, nor do their work e-mails evoke public displays of emotion, angst or giggling.
So what is it about the cell phone? Are teens turning into anti-social phone addicts, shunning face-to-face communication in favor of a cellular hook-up or a text messaging session?
Not so, says Scott Campbell, an assistant professor at the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan.
"I think what it is doing is keeping them perpetually connected between face-to-face communications," he says.
According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a survey of technology use by teens published in July 2005, some 45 percent of American 12 to 17 year olds already say they have cell phones. And while they may have a cell phone, the survey also found that over half of those teens actually spent more time talking on landlines.
Amanda Lenhart, the senior research analyst of the Pew survey, says when it comes to staying in touch with friends and peers, teens will take "the available option, whatever it be."
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