US teens text 3,339 times a month, Nielsen says

SMS, MMS and mobile Web use all are rising among the 13-17 age group

If you can't say something in 160 characters or less, don't say anything.

That's increasingly the attitude of teens in the U.S., who used their mobile phones to send and receive an average of 3,339 texts per month in the second quarter, according to The Nielsen Co. SMS (Short Message Service) is now the main reason to own a cell phone, according to teens in the U.S. SMS, which was created as a testing and communication system for cellular network technicians, is limited to 160 characters per message but has proved well-suited to consumers around the world. The pace at which the average U.S. teens is now using SMS comes out to six messages per waking hour, according to Nielsen.

Teens also are using much more data on their phones, with a gain to 62MB per month from 14MB a year earlier, Nielsen said. Meanwhile, mobile users in the 13-17 age group are talking less, now averaging 646 minutes per month, down 14 percent from last year. The only group of consumers that talked less on cell phones in the second quarter was adults over 55, Nielsen said in a Thursday blog entry on its new report.

Texting is easier and faster than making a voice call, as well as more fun, teens told Nielsen. Even teens' mobile data use seems an extension of the texting experience: The most common data service teens reported using in the last 30 days was MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) or picture messaging, which 62 percent said they had used. That was up from 55 percent a year earlier. Mobile Internet use came in second, with 49 percent using it. Only 40 percent had reported mobile Internet use a year earlier. Far more teens -- 38 percent, up from 26 percent -- now report downloading applications, too.

Among teens, the mobile Web has now outpaced earlier mobile data offerings, including pre-installed games, ringtone downloads and instant messaging, Nielsen said.

Texting was the biggest reason to own a cell phone for 43 percent of teens surveyed, up from 42 percent a year earlier. Safety was the second most important reason for a phone, cited by 35 percent of teens, edging out "keeping in touch with friends," with 34 percent.

But while teen females are leading the texting trend, receiving an average of 4,050 messages per month compared with 2,539 for males, boys are using more data. The average male teen in the U.S. consumed 75MB of mobile data per month in the second quarter, up from just 17MB a year earlier. The average teen girl used 53MB, up from 11MB.

Nielsen said its findings came from analyzing the cell phone bills of more than 60,000 mobile subscribers and survey data from more than 3,000 teens.

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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