Teenagers have embraced text messaging as their main form of communication, but mobile phones are often a source of tension with parents and schools, a new survey found.
The frequency with which teens text has overtaken every other form of interaction, including instant messaging and talking face-to-face, according to a study released April 20 by researchers at Pew Research Center and the University of Michigan.
Three-quarters of teens now own cell phones, up from 45 percent in 2004. Of those who own cell phones, 88 percent text, up from just over half in 2006.
At the same time, cell phones and teens’ attachment to them are a source of conflict with parents and schools. Many parents limit cell phone use, and 48 percent said they use the technology to monitor their kids’ whereabouts—either by using GPS technology or calling the child to check in. Not surprisingly, the parents of girls ages 12 and 13 were more likely to say they monitor cell phone use.
The limits did seem to have tangible benefits. Teens were less likely to report regretting a text they sent, or having sent sexual content by text message, if their parents placed limits on text messaging. They were also less likely to us their cell phones dangerously while driving.
Schools, the survey found, often ban cell phones from classrooms, and some ban the devices from school grounds entirely, seeing them as a “disruptive force.” Still, more than half of teens who own mobile phones said they have sent a text message during class, even though their school bans mobile phones.
Despite all the media attention to “sexting,” only 4 percent of teens said they have sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of themselves to someone else via a text message. Teens who pay their own cell phone bills were more likely to send “sexts” than those whose parents pay for all or part of their bill.
The survey of 800 teenagers ages 12 to 17 and their parents was conducted on landlines and cell phones from June to September 2009. It was conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Michigan’s Department of Communication Studies.
The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.