Youths use cell phones as mini-PCs

Young adults and minorities are leading a revolution in how Americans use their cell phones, according to a new survey with important implications for education.

People ages 18 to 29 and minorities are more likely to use their cell phones as personal computers, digital music players, cameras, and more–a phenomenon that school leaders and content providers should consider when developing programs aimed at students and young staff members or parents.

“[I’ve] got everything on my phone,” said Mark Madsen, a 24-year-old college student from Chattanooga, Tenn. “I use it mostly for the phone, but I also play video games and use the MP3 player. I pretty much use it all the time.” Almost two-thirds of young adults use their phones to send text messages. More than half use them to take pictures and almost half to play games. They use these features, as well as internet connections, about twice as often as cell phone users overall.

Minorities were far more likely than whites to use the phones to take pictures, send text messages, and use the internet, though the minority rates were influenced by enthusiasm among Hispanics–who tend to be a younger population, the poll found.

“We think of them as mobile phones, but the personal computer, mobile phone, and the internet are merging into some new medium like the personal computer in the 1980s or the internet in the 1990s,” said Howard Rheingold, an author who has taught at Stanford University and written extensively about the effects of technology.

Almost 90 percent of cell-phone users say they encounter others using cell phones in an annoying way. The survey suggests that maybe it’s time for schools to address cell-phone etiquette with their students, in much the same way schools now teach internet safety and proper “netiquette.”

A joint effort of the Associated Press, AOL, and the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the poll of 1,503 adults was conducted March 8-26. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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