Social network sites: Arenas of communication with friends.
Beyond the cell phone, teens have other arenas for digital communication with their friends. More than a quarter of all teens (26%) reported using social network sites such as Facebook or MySpace to socialize or communicate with their friends daily, while another 38% of all teens never use this form of interaction. Social network sites are used for interpersonal interaction, but also to organize larger events, while the cell phone is for more personal interaction. One high school girl in the focus groups said, "I think Facebook is really [more] dominant than the phone for like, big activities. For just hooking up with friends, I’m on the phone." Another high school girl noted:
- My whole team has a thing on Facebook where like if there is a practice cancelled or – I mean you’ll get texts if there is a practice cancelled, too—but, um it’s just like everyone’s on Facebook a lot more so its just easier to send out like a group message. It’s like, ’We have a car wash this weekend, just to let you guys know,’ that type of thing, instead of emailing.
As with texting, the broad tendency is that older teen girls are more active in this sphere while younger teen boys are more reserved in their use. Among users of social network sites, 43% of the older teen girls report that they use it on a daily basis to communicate with friends. By contrast, only 29% of the younger teen boys use social network sites to communicate with their friends daily.
Face-to-face meetings: The ultimate encounters.
All told, about one in three teens reports face-to-face interaction daily with friends outside of school. At the other end of the scale, only about 4% report none of this type of social interaction. On a weekly basis, 85% of the teens report that they have non-school face-to-face social interaction.
Teen boys as well as older teen girls (ages 14-17) are more likely to report daily face-to-face social interaction than are younger teen girls (ages 12 -13). Some 35% of the teen boys and 36% of the older teen girls report daily face-to-face interaction outside of school. By contrast, only 22% of the younger teen girls report the same. Interestingly, internet users are also more active than non-internet users in face-to-face interaction: 34% of those who use the internet report daily face-to-face interaction, while only 18% of those who do not use the internet reported the same.
Landline telephones: Fading as communications tools?
Teen voice calling is not simply confined to mobile phones – the majority of American families with teens still have a landline telephone in their home and teens take advantage of it. Nearly one-third (30%) of teens report daily use of the landline telephone to contact their friends. Sixteen percent say that they never use the landline telephone for social interaction.
Sometimes use of the landline is the most convenient, sometimes there is a cost consideration, and sometimes there is poor cell phone coverage. When a teen is at home, they often use the landline phone in order to save the cost of airtime on a cell phone. However, some teens report that their families are cancelling landline subscriptions.
Interviewer: Does anyone have a phone at home, like a landline phone?
Boy 1: My parents just cancelled it a few months ago.
Interviewer: Your parents cancelled it. Anybody else not have a land line, just a cell phone?
Boy 2: I don’t have one.
Boy 3: I probably wouldn’t but it comes with the internet, so. But otherwise we would have cancelled it a long time ago, everybody who lives in the house has a cell phone.
Indeed, 26% of teens in this survey reached on a cell phone live in households that do not have a landline phone, and 29% of all families say they receive all or almost all of their calls on a cellular phone. Overall, 8% of American families with teens ages 12-17 in the household do not have a landline telephone at all. And as we see with other communication channels, those who use the cell phone are also intense users of the landline phone.
Younger teen boys (aged 12 and 13) use the landline telephone significantly less than other groups. Where 16% of younger boys say they use the landline phone on a daily basis, 29% of the older teen boys (aged 14 – 17) and 28% of the younger teen girls (aged 12 – 13) report the same. By contrast, older teen girls (14 – 17 year-olds) report a significantly higher level of use than all other groups — 39% of them use the landline phone daily to interact with their friends.
Instant Messaging (IM): A digital communications tool pushed aside by texting and absorbed by social network sites.
All told, 62% of all teens report using instant messaging (IM), while 38% either do not have access or choose not to use it. About one in four of all internet-using teens (26%) uses instant messaging on a daily basis to communicate with friends outside of school. Further, an additional 30% use it at least weekly, 10% use it less than weekly. Since 2006, instant messaging by teens has remained flat, with 30% of teens instant messaging daily in 2006 compared with 26% of teens who message daily in 2009.
Instant messaging is a form of communication that has, perhaps, been eclipsed by social network and texting. Indeed, many social network sites offer instant messaging functionality for users within the network. This is reflected in the comments of a high school girl who said, "The only time I ever, like, instant message, is when you are in Facebook, there’s a part of it ...where you can."
Instant messaging is one form of communication for which older teen girls are not the dominant users. Instead, older girls share the mantle with older boys. Among internet users, 29% of the older teen boys and girls (14-17 year-olds) and 25% of the younger teen boys (12 -13) use instant messaging on a daily basis. Further, the data reflect that only about half as many younger teen girls use instant messaging (12%).
It is perhaps not surprising that the more frequently a teen uses the internet, the more likely he is to use instant messaging. One third (32%) of teens who use the internet on a daily basis also make daily use of instant messaging.
Email: The least likely to be used by teens.
Email is the least used of the communication forms examined. When compared with use in 2006, daily email use has declined slightly from 15% of internet users to 11% of internet users in 2009. Fully 41% of all teens say that they never use email when communicating with their peers outside of school. While not used often for informal peer interactions, email is used in more formal situations such as in school and by parents and other adults. This does not mean that it is seen in a positive light.
Interviewer: Do people still use email?
Group: Yes, yes all the time.
High School Boy 1: Yeah, the teachers do! The teachers are like ridiculous with that especially if they have your parents’ email.
There are no major age or gender based differences in email use.