The Cell Phone’s Role in Teenage Life

Some stereotypes are true: Teenagers do believe they couldn’t live without their cell phones. In a Harris Interactive/CTIA-The Wireless Association poll of 13-19-year-olds who’ve got one, 45 percent agreed that “Having a cell phone is the key to my social life.” Even more, 57 percent, agreed that having one “has improved the quality of my life.” Asked how important some basic cell-phone functions are to them, 79 percent accorded “die without it” or “love it” status to “make or receive calls” and 67 percent to “send or receive text messaging/SMS.”

The survey (fielded in July and released this month) also confirmed the stereotypical view that teen cell-phone users are avid texters — so much so that texting “is indeed replacing talking among teens.” Already, the poll’s respondents reported spending nearly equal amounts of time texting and talking. What’s so great about texting? The chief appeal (cited by 46 percent) is that “I can multitask.” Among other reasons: “It’s fast” (42 percent), “I don’t have to talk in person” (36 percent), “It’s private/stealthy” (33 percent) and “It’s fun” (29 percent). Girls were more likely than boys (53 percent vs. 38 percent) to point to multitasking as a big draw.

If texting ceased to exist, 54 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys said this would “end their social life” or, less drastically, “make it a little worse.” As such, one is inclined to believe the 42 percent of respondents who claimed they can text blindfolded. For many other popular features, though, they need their eyes wide open. Fifty-seven percent of the teens use their phones for e-mail. Forty-eight percent use them to access social-networking sites, 46 percent to get online weather information, 29 percent for driving directions and 28 percent for sports reports. Oh, and 24 percent use the phones for “things for class.”

Fewer than half the respondents said they’d be interested in receiving ads on their cell phones, even if their phone company gave them incentives to do so. Six percent would be “extremely interested” and another 6 percent “very interested,” with 15 percent simply “interested” and 21 percent “somewhat interested.” Fifty-two percent said they’re “not at all interested.”