Common Sense Media, released a study, Do Smart Phones = Smart Kids? that helps put some numbers around the anecdotal evidence that kids love cell phones and use them differently than most adults. The fact that 83% of 17 year-olds owns a mobile phone was not surprising; the fact that they send or receive an average of 3,146 text messages a month was.
It will be interesting to check back with these students after they enter college and/or the workplace and see if this phenomenon persists. I’ve been hearing for years now that “email is dead and only for old fogies”… but often wondered if the choice of technology is dictated more by financial constraints and peer group than by age alone.
Besides lots of good information regarding creative uses of cell phones in the classroom, and recommendations for parents, teachers, and policy makers, the authors of the study also reported some interesting findings that seem to explain why younger students are so enamored with texting:
Texting is cheap. While all students would love a smart phone, most have to settle for a plain vanilla cell phone for economic reasons. Also, voice minutes are often shared by the entire family, whereas (at least after that first shocking phone bill hits the mailbox) most plans offer a flat rate all you-can-eat text option.
Mobile email or IM isn’t an option. With no smart phone, email or IM is something that has to be conducted on the family computer… a shared resource with restricted mobility that is far from private. Families report children sitting in the backseat of the family car texting each other just so mom and dad can’t hear the conversation.
Texting is a social activity. Texting picks up for girls around 11 or 12, and when boys get their first girlfriend. The study’s authors compare most text content to be more a “tap on the shoulder” than significant conversation. It is a way of feeling close to your friends, a part of the group, more like passing a note in class or making plans to meet after school. Yet the rate of texting is so high because it often creates an ongoing dialogue with a great deal of sending and receiving before it is complete.
Other than the possible injury to their respective thumbs, the report is largely reassuring that texting is simply a new form of relieving teen angst that recalls teens of another generation sprawled across their beds with their doors tightly closed speaking for hours on their princess phone.
Those rich kids that got their own phone lines are now the kids who have the smart phones! It also means that texting may carry over into adulthood to a limited degree… but I still find myself asking myself, “Why don’t I just call them?”
CLICK HERE for more information on how to help your Teen Text Addict.