While texting is the most common use of the cell phone among teens, talking on the device is also a central function. Voice interaction provides teens with access to friends and parents. The convenience of the cell phone means that they are never out of touch. This is both a positive and a negative thing in the eyes of the teens. As one younger high school-age boy said:
- The best thing [with the cell phone] is that it’s so convenient and you can just talk to people all the time, and like even if you’re not at home. And like, the worst thing is like, when people keep calling you or like, it just gets annoying.
Girls are more likely than boys to call friends every day.
Almost all teens with cell phones (94%) say they use the phone to talk to their friends, and half of teens (50%) say they do this every day. Once again, girls are more substantial communicators – 59% of girls with cell phones talk to their friends on their mobile every day, while 42% of boys with cell phones call friends each day. High school-age teens are also more likely than middle school-age teens to talk on their cell phone with friends daily – 56% of high schoolers talk daily on their cell phone, as do 35% of middle schoolers.
The youngest teen boys ages 12-13 are more likely than other groups to say that on an average day they make no calls on their cell phone, with 9% of those boys reporting no calls, while just 2% of all other teens report making no calls on their phone on a typical day. Overall, there is no difference by gender or age in the average number of calls made a day by teens – teens average just under 11 calls a day, with a median of 5 calls per day. The only variance in the median is among younger teens ages 12-13 who typically make or receive 3 calls per day.
There are notable differences in the number of calls made on a typical day by race and ethnicity. White teens make fewer calls a day than either black or English-speaking Hispanic teens. White teens typically make 4 calls a day, or around 120 calls a month, while black teens make 7 calls a day, or about 210 calls a month, and Hispanic teens make 5 calls a day, or about 150 calls a month. When looking at the mean number of calls per day by race/ethnicity (7 for whites, 13 for blacks and 17 for Hispanics), it’s clear that a larger portion of the very heavy callers are found in the black and Hispanic populations.
There is an economic consideration associated with the use of voice, as the type of phone plan a teen has also influences the number of calls they make on the average day. Sixty-three percent of those teens with unlimited voice subscriptions reported daily voice calling with friends, while 47% of those who had fixed minute subscriptions and 31% of those who had a set amount of money to spend on voice minutes reported making calls to friends daily. Teens with a fixed number of voice minutes per month typically make 5 calls a day, while teens with a set amount of money to use on minutes make 3 calls a day and teens with unlimited minutes typically make 5 calls a day. Whether a teen pays for his phone bill also affects the volume of calling. Teens who pay their entire phone bill themselves make 7 calls on a typical day, while teens who pay part of the cost make 5 calls and teens who pay none of the cost for their cell phone make 4 calls a day. A small portion of teens (10%) who have a cell phone and say they do not text at all also say that they do not make or receive any phone calls in the average day.
Looking for a moment at the teens who own a cell phone but do not use the voice function, the youngest teen boys are over-represented. The data show that 9% of this group report never making a voice call while only 2% of all other teens report the same.