Communication tools have long been at the heart of the popularity and utility of the internet for teens and adults. Email remains the most commonly reported activity among all groups of internet users. While many families initially acquire a computer and internet access for educational purposes, entertainment and communications functions generally eclipse school-focused online activities.
This section of the report charts the changes in the use of communications applications by teens over the past four years and places them in contrast to adult use of the same technology. As rapidly as the internet was adopted in the U.S., the defining characteristics of its use evolve at an even greater pace. Teen use of communications applications has undergone rapid changes in recent years. While statistically, the proportion of teens that have ever used email or instant messaging has remained stable, teen internet users report that they choose to use instant messaging more often than email and prefer it when talking with friends. Beyond tethered communications, teens are going mobile, using cellular phones for voice calls and text messaging. The landscape of communications options has changed radically since our last survey, and teens are often in the vanguard of adoption for these new technologies.