The acquisition of a cell phone appears to influence the communication choices of teens. In particular, cell phone users are much less likely to choose to use email than teens without cell phones. When asked which medium teens used to send written messages to friends most often, teens with cell phones were much more likely to select instant messaging and text messaging than email, while teens without mobile phones were more likely to choose email or instant messaging as their most favored textual method of communicating with friends.
As discussed previously, 45% of all teens have a cell phone, and 47% of teen internet users own one. Of teens with mobile phones, 51% said they most often conversed by text through instant messaging, 25% said they most often text messaged on their phones, and 22% picked email as their most frequent mode of written communication.
Teens without phones were just as likely to pick email (43%) as instant messaging (41%) as their most often selected mode of written communications. A scant 5% selected text messaging as their most popular form of written communication. These users may be texting by borrowing a friend’s phone, or by using a text messaging program through a desktop or laptop computer.
Teens with a web-enabled cell phone who report using it to go online (about 10% of teens online) are even more likely to report using text messaging most often for written communication. More than a third of these teens (36%) report using cell-phone-based texts, 45% select instant messaging and a mere 19% say that email is the way they most often write to friends.
Cell phones do not seem to keep teens away from the landline. On a typical day, cell-phone-owning teens report using landlines more often than their cell phones. Fifty-three percent of cell phone users report using their landline phone most often, and 45% report using their cell phones most.
And while all teens are more likely to say they most often talk on the phone when communicating with their friends, teens with cell phones are more likely than teens without to say that they most often communicate with friends by written messages rather than the phone. Sixty-seven percent of teens without cell phones say they use a phone most often when communicating with their friends, compared to 58% of teens with a cell phone. So even though they potentially have more opportunities to talk on the phone than teens without cell phones, cell phone owners prefer to communicate with friends via written communication.