Dec. 15, 2011 at 2:19 PM ET
A recent report shows teens who text and surf the Web using their smartphones have tripled their data usage in the past year, with young women the most likely to let their fingers do the talking, sending and receiving nearly 4,000 messages a month on average.
Nielsen's latest analysis reveals the ascendancy of teens into what the tracking firm labels the "mobile Data Tsunami," or the rapid growth of data consumption by U.S. smartphone users with the emergence of unlimited plans amid a social media-addicted society. Teens hold a formidable place as "the leading message senders," in these polls of more than 65,000 mobile subscribers who volunteered for the studies and ponied up their monthly cellphone bills.
The latest information about teens in particular give weight to anecdotal evidence of heavy texting. (For example, my friends have told me more than a few times about how rampant text messaging is among their early teen children, from dawn to well after dusk.) In the third quarter of 2011, teens ages 13-17 used an average of 320 MB of data per month, which is an increase of 256 percent from the same point last year — growing at a rate faster than any other age group.
While Nielsen finds much of this comes at the hands of teen boys, who took in 382 MB per month (vs. their female counterparts' 266 MB), teen girls are on top when it comes to messaging, with 3,952 messages per month vs. boys' 2,815. (The average per teen is 3,417.)
A year ago, Pew came out with a report showing a similar preoccupation with texting, finding that the average teen sends and receives 3,339 texts a month.
Besides messaging, teens are also consuming data on their phones for Internet browsing, social networking, email, app downloads, and app use.
What they aren't using their phones for: making voice calls. "Voice usage has declined the most among this group, from an average of 685 minutes to 572 minutes. When surveyed, the top three reasons teens said that they prefer messaging to calling was because it is faster (22 percent), easier (21 percent), and more fun (18 percent)."
Given the distraction phones — especially smartphones — are to this particular age group, safety advocates have laid on the pressure to curb teens from texting while driving, and there are plenty of apps out there that can help parents prevent the two from mixing. But in the past, teens have pegged drinking and driving as much more dangerous than texting and driving.