A third of U.S. teenagers send more than 100 texts a day as messaging has surged to become the most popular means of communication for young people, a new survey found.
The new study by researchers at Pew Research Center and the University of Michigan found that text messaging has risen dramatically to eclipse every other form of interaction, including phone calls, instant messaging, social networking — and talking face-to-face.
Girls send texts at a rate nearly three times that of boys.
“Texting is now the central hub of communication in the lives of teens today, and it has really skyrocketed in the last 18 months,” said Amanda Lenhart, a researcher at the Pew Research Center. “There is definitely an element of text messaging that fits so seamlessly into their lives.”
But text messaging has also become a rising source of conflict with parents and schools, which unlike phone calls and computers, can be quietly carried out under the noses of authority figures.
“Texting is a much different experience than calling somebody on a land line, where you might get their parents,” Lenhart said. “There’s an element of ownership for teenagers around texting.”
The study found that 48 percent of parents keep track of their children’s whereabouts — either through GPS or by calling to check in.
While many schools have banned phones from classrooms, seeing them as a “disruptive force,” administrators admit they are fighting a losing battle against stealth texters. More than half of teens with handsets surveyed still say they have sent texts during class.
Despite the recent media fuss about “sexting,” only 4 percent of teens say they have sent sexually explicit messages or nearly nude photos of themselves over a phone. Those who pay their own wireless bills were more likely to send “sexts” than those whose parents pay for all or part of their bill.
The study also offered a glimpse into the subtleties of teen culture and communication. For instance, while boys don’t typically use punctuation, for girls, smilies and other nuances are essential.
“If a girl puts a period at the end of a text message to another girl then it comes across as she’s mad,” said Scott Campbell, the study’s author. “They have these practices because they’ve learned that texts can lead to misunderstandings.”
Handset makers have long seen the shifting trend to texting and developed phones, like the Sidekick, that are focused on the teen market. Most recently, Microsoft announced a new line of touch screen phones — called the Kin One and Kin Two — that offer special software that aims to help connect with friends and family online.