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Teens & Texting Study: Kids Today are All “Thumbs”

April 21, 2010

BOSTON - If today's teenagers seem to be all thumbs, it's due to an increase in sending text messages, according to a new study released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The study of teens ages 12 to 17 found that text messages sent and received on their cellular phones are now adolescents' favored mode of communication with friends – ranking higher than email or telephone calls, and even higher than meeting face-to-face.

One in three teens who text send more than 100 text messages daily. That number is not as outrageous as it may sound, says report co-author Scott Campbell, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan.

"If you think about just a conversation – and this as an extended conversation with multiple people throughout the day – conversations take a lot of turns; there's a lot of little, one-word responses."

Campbell says some parents worry that 'texting' is taking the place of actual, face-to-face conversations, but he does not believe it has affected the quantity of in-person communication. He acknowledges it could have an impact on quality, however.

"Sitting with your parents at the dinner table and text-messaging with your friends, or being in class and text-messaging with people."

Campbell adds one thing parents might not fully appreciate about this relatively new form of communication, is that their teens are learning important skills by communicating in such short spurts.

"Being able to get your point across in 140 characters or less is becoming a valuable skill for top executives, who are trying to get their message out to a larger audience."

In terms of teens communicating with parents, the study finds good old-fashioned calls – by cell phone, of course – are the preferred method.

The report, "Teens and Mobile Phones," is online at http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Teens-and-Mobile-Phones.aspx.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA