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New Harris poll studies teen communication trends

Publication: Mobile Tech News

February 20, 2007


U.S. teens now live in a world in which the Internet, cell phones, text messaging and other technology dominate their communication and are an integral part of life as they understand it. Despite the hype about very public breakups using modern technology, young people still seem to grasp the rules for these communication tools and know when it is appropriate to use these items to gather information and when to avoid them altogether. According to Suzanne Martin, Ph.D., Youth and Education Researcher at Harris Interactive, "Teens utilize different modes of communication in different social contexts."

When the tone of a communication is serious, such as arguing and breaking up with someone, teens realize that communication tools may not be the best avenue of discussion. Two in three teens (67%) would not break up with someone and two in five (42%) would not argue with a friend over phones, email, instant messaging, text messaging, or social networking sites. When choosing a communication tool, teens will most likely choose to use cell phones and landline phones to talk to a friend about something serious or important (cell phone 34%, landline phone 23%); apologize to a friend (cell phone 22%, landline phone 20%); or break up with someone (cell phone 14%, landline phone 9%).

These are just some of the results of a Harris Interactive YouthQuery(SM) omnibus of 1,726 U.S. youth ages 8 through 18, which was conducted online from December 14 to 22, 2006. The survey was conducted in collaboration with marketing professors Elizabeth Moore, Ph.D. and William Wilkie, Ph.D. of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. Although the survey was conducted among youth ages 8 through 18, the information in this document will focus on teens ages 13 through 18.

Teens are cautious when using technology

Caution abound, teens generally shy away from using certain communication tools to discuss
personal items. About one in three teens say they are not comfortable gossiping, sharing secrets or having private conversations using phones, email, instant or text messaging. Teens feel more comfortable discussing touchy subjects when using instant messaging (29%), than cell phones (14%), text messaging (11%) and social networking websites (10%).

Overall, teens are most comfortable using cell phones, instant messaging and landline phones to have a private conversation (cell phone 29%, instant messaging 16%, landline phone 15%), sharing a secret (cell phone 25%, instant messaging 11%, landline phone, 14%) and gossiping (cell phone 17%, instant messaging 17%, landline phone 14%). Teens are also more likely to hear rumors about people through instant messaging (31%) and social networking website (27%).

Cell phones impact day to day communication as well

Not surprisingly, general teen day to day communications occur most over cell phones, social networking websites and landline phones. Cell phones are the number one choice for arranging to meet with friends (36%), having quick conversations (29%), contacting a friend when bored (25%) and inviting people to a party or event (22%). Social networking websites are the choice of communication when staying in touch with friends (24%), leaving short messages (23%) and contacting a friend in different school or town (21%).

When comparing the different modes of communication, youth feel they would be most likely to miss out on the activities with friends if they didn't have a cell phone (29%). If teens want to feel more outgoing and have more time to think about what they have to say, they are more likely to use instant messaging to communicate over cell phones, text messaging or social networking websites.

Methodology

The Harris Interactive YouthQuery(SM) omnibus was conducted online within the United States between December 14 and 22, 2006 among a nationwide cross section of 1,726 youth ages 8 through 18 (703 tweens, ages 8-12; 1,023 teens, ages 13 to 18). Figures for age, sex, race, education, parents' education, region and urbanicity were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty the results would have a sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points of what they would be if the entire U.S. teen population had been polled with complete accuracy. Unfortunately, there are
several other possible sources of error in all polls or surveys that are probably more serious
than theoretical calculations of sampling error. They include refusals to be interviewed (nonresponse), question wording and question order, and weighting. It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result from these factors. This online sample was not a probability sample.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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