Campus Life

Deep in The Heart of Texting

The trend in the way young people communicate is fascinating, if not annoying and even dangerous. I went for a walk the other day on a quiet residential street. Behind me, I heard a loud-muffler car approaching. As it passed me, I saw the high-school-aged driver texting on his cell phone. He wasn't going that fast, but I said a prayer of thanks that he didn't run me down. As I watched him go by, I saw him pull into the driveway of an upscale home a short distance from where I was. I watched him exit his car and he never broke stride with his thumb action as he opened the car's trunk, removed a package (thumbing one-handed as needed), unlocked the home's door, and entered. Quite a virtuoso performance of dexterity.

Later that day, I found a story on the Web that addressed the issue of teen texting. The headline noted: "US teens confess to 60-a-day texting FRENZY" (the caps are theirs, not mine). I thought that 60 texts a day is a lot. I was wrong about that. In posting a link to this article on the College Confidential discussion forum, I got to read some amazing comments from young people and parents about how obsessed teens are with texting non-stop day and night. One mother remarked, "The last time I had checked on anyone's usage in our house I saw 7000 texts in a month on one of my kids that is ridiculous. I don't think 60 a day is that bad but I don't come close to texting even half of that." Seven thousand a month!? Holy thumb calluses, Batman!

If you are a parent reading this, I'd love to see your comments about what you have observed in your household about teen texting. I'm not addressing here the dangers of texting while driving, which can be deadly. See this College Confidential thread for the dangers of that. I'm just fascinated (maybe the wrong word) with the compulsion that teens feel to be in constant global touch with their circle of friends. Maybe a review of the survey's stats will help you understand the magnitude of the issue.

US teens confess to 60-a-day texting FRENZY

SMS and IM are hot, phone calls and email are not

By Anna Leach

A rise in boys and older teens texting has pushed the average number of text messages American youngsters send to 60 a day, ten more than in 2009.

That means the average American teenager awake from 7am until 10pm sends a text every 15 minutes. The survey by Pew Research quizzed 799 UA teens aged between 12 and 17 about their mobile phone habits and the results show that texting has become the dominant mode of communication for the under 18s.

All teens questioned had access to either a phone or a computer. The 60-a-day habit represents the median usage rather than the mean number.

The boom was fuelled by a big increase in 14- to 17-year-old girls texting, the researchers found, with the average teenage girl in this older age bracket now sending 100 texts a day, up from 60 three years ago.

Boys aged between 14 and 17 sent half that number, 50 a day, but it was still a significant increase from the 30 a day they sent in 2009.

Phone calls were down for teens with and without mobile phones. Twenty-six per cent of all teens surveyed said they own a cell phone and talk daily with friends using their mobile, which is down from 38 per cent in 2009.

Fourteen per cent of all teens quizzed said they talk daily with friends on a landline, down from 30 per cent who said so in 2009. Social network messaging (29 per cent daily) and other forms of instant messaging (22 per cent daily) were the next most popular forms for teenage communication.

Only 6 per cent of teenagers sent emails to their friends on a daily basis.

According to Pew's 2011 teen survey, over three-quarters (77 per cent) of teens own a mobile phone. Twenty-three per cent of all those questioned aged between 12 and 17 had smartphones.


As another mother discloses on College Confidential, "I think my 21 y/o daughter texts me alone 60 times a day :-) I can't imagine how many other texts she sends." I'm afraid if the mother knew the actual total, she might think that her daughter is almost ignoring her. :-) Deep in the heart of texting . . . indeed.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.