Conventional wisdom suggests that teens are more enthusiastic users of the cell phone than adults. In practice, teens ages 12 to 17 are indeed more intense users of text messaging than older cell phone users, while they use voice calling in similar manner to adults.
Teens send and receive text messages in numbers that are orders of magnitude greater than what is sent and received by adults. The average teen (even including teens without cell phones) sends and receives five times more text messages a day than a typical adult. A teen typically sends or receives 50 text messages a day, while the average adult sends or receives 10. Fully 31% of teens send more than 100 texts a day and 15% send more than 200 a day, while just 8% and 5% of adults send that many, respectively.
While more than half of all adults with cell phones who text send 1 to 10 text messages a day, just one fifth (22%) of teens send that many messages each day. Even though discrepancies remain between the age groups, adults have seen substantial increases in texting over the past months. Today, the median number of texts sent by adult texters is 10, up from 5 in September 2009. Looked at through a different statistical lens, the mean number of texts sent by adults as of May 2010 is 39.1 up from 29.7 in September 2009.
Teens also differ from adults in some of the purposes behind cell phone usage choices, particularly text messaging. More than half of teen texters (51%) text several times a day “just to say hello and chat” while only about a third (34%) of adults who text send “hello and chat” messages with that frequency.
Teens are also more likely than older adults to have slept with their cell phone on or right next to their bed – fully 84% of teens do this, while 65% of adults 18 and older with a cell phone have done so. Like adults, teens who sleep with their cell phone tend to have a more positive attitude towards the cell phone overall than their counterparts who do not take the phone to bed, and to express beliefs that suggest that the phone is a substantially important tool in their lives. Teens who sleep with their phones are more likely to appreciate the ways it keeps them in touch, makes them feel safer, and are more likely to enjoy the way their cell phone makes it easier to change plans on the fly. They are less likely to turn their phones off when they don’t have to and are just as likely to express irritation with interruptions from their cell phone as those who don’t sleep with their phone. Teens who sleep with their cell phone also do not find it particularly difficult to remember to keep their phone with them.
Teens and adults are just as likely to have received unwanted to spam text messages, with 57% of adult and 54% of teen cell phone users receiving spam texts.