Popularity of text messaging is edging out cellphone calls

Research shows teens send about 2,000 a month

By Hope Yen
Associated Press / December 16, 2009

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WASHINGTON - R u kidding me? Americans punched out more than 110 billion text messages last year, double the number in the previous year and growing, as the shorthand communication becomes a popular alternative to cellphone calls.

The nation’s 270 million cellphone subscribers each sent out an average of 407 text messages in 2008, according to government statistics released yesterday by the Census Bureau. That is more than double the 188 messages sent by the average cell subscriber in 2007. The figures did not break down the texting by age, but the overall numbers understate the thousands of texts sent each month by many teens - balanced out by older folks who do not text as much.

“We are seeing a clear trend of huge increases in text messaging,’’ said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “If teens are a leader for America, then we are moving to a text-based communication system. For them, there is less interest in talking.’’

Her research found the average teen currently sends more than 2,000 text messages per month. About two-thirds of all teens use text messaging, mostly due to its simplicity as well as the privacy of being able to communicate without being overheard.

Lenhart predicted that texting would continue to grow as parents begin using it as an easy way to reach their children.

At the same time, the average length of a cellphone call declined last year to 2.3 minutes. That is the shortest chat time since the 1990s, before mobile devices and cheap calling plans became widely available to everyday consumers. The peak talk time came in 2004, when a caller on average chatted for 3.05 minutes.

The monthly cellphone bill has remained largely flat over the years, at $50.

The data are part of the Census Bureau’s annual Statistical Abstract of the United States, a compendium of numbers quantifying just about every aspect of everyday life. The agency assembles the latest statistics from government and private sources so researchers, academics and businesses can find them in one place.

Among other findings:

■More than one-third, or 37 percent, of employers allowed all or most workers to have flextime by periodically changing start and quitting times. Eight percent of employees were permitted to compress the workweek, 8 percent to share jobs, and 57 percent to return to work gradually after childbirth.

■Despite the recession, US residents last year spent more than $53.4 billion on lottery tickets, up from $52.4 billion in the previous year. About $3 of every $5 went toward instant scratch-off tickets.

■Russia had the deadliest roads in the world in 2007, suffering 235 fatalities per 1 million residents. Poland was next at 147, followed by Estonia at 146 and Slovenia at 145. The United States had about 136 road fatalities per 1 million residents.

■Alternative medicine most commonly used by US adults in 2007 included nonvitamin and natural products (17.7 percent); deep breathing exercises (12.7 percent); and meditation (9.4 percent). Also popular were chiropractic work (8.6 percent); massage (8.3 percent); and yoga (6.1 percent).