Voice is for parents.
When teens use the phone for calling, they are most likely to be calling parents, with 68% of teens with cell phones saying they talk to their parents on their cell phone at least once a day. Talking with friends is a close second to parents, with 59% of teens with cell phones saying they talk with friends once a day or more often. About half of teens who have a boyfriend or girlfriend call them on a daily basis. Brothers, sisters and other family members are the least likely to be called on daily basis, with just about a third of teens who have siblings (33%) saying they talk at least once day. As with texting, only 4% of teens report never calling their friends. Interestingly, while 20% report never texting their parents, only 4% of teens with cell phones say that they never call their parents or guardians. Thus while intergenerational texting is not necessarily uncommon, voice interaction between parent and child via the mobile phone is substantially more common.
Girls talk more frequently with friends on their cell phones than boys.
Girls are much more likely to talk frequently to their friends on the phone than are boys – 40% of girls with cell phones say they talk to friends several times a day, compared with 26% of boys who talk with friends that frequently. A high school girl in one of our focus groups explained the importance of voice calling for maintaining important friendships: "Well, like one of my best friends goes to [a different school] and I don’t see her that often and we talk like every day on the phone, so…I mean, even though she lives like 10 minutes away, I still think we wouldn’t have the same relationship if I couldn’t talk to her on the phone every day."
Older teens with phones are also more likely to talk to friends on their cell phones frequently. Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) teens ages 14-17 with cell phones talk to friends several times a day while 22% of younger teens say the same. Older teens are also more likely to talk with siblings, other family and significant others multiple times during the day. The latter is partly due to the fact that older teens are more likely to have a significant other than younger teens.
Black teens with cell phones are more likely than whites to say that they talk to friends and siblings on the phone several times a day. White teens are more likely to say they talk to friends once a day, and to their siblings and other relatives infrequently – once a week or less often. There are no differences by gender, age or race in the frequency of talking to parents on a cell phone.
As we have seen in previous research, communicating frequently in one mode is often related to communicating frequently in multiple ways. Talking and texting on the cell phone are no exception – teens who text are more likely to say they talk frequently with almost everyone – friends, parents and significant others – several times a day. The exception is in the case of siblings, where texters are more likely to talk with them by cell phone once a day.
Similar to text messaging, the type of cell phone plan a teen has relates to how frequently she talks on the phone. Perhaps surprisingly, teens who have an unlimited texting plan are more likely to talk on the phone more frequently with everyone – friends, family and romantic partners. Less surprisingly, teens with unlimited voice minutes are more likely to talk frequently with friends and boyfriends or girlfriends. However teens on family plans – who share minutes with parents and other family members – are more likely to talk to their parents and siblings more frequently. Teens who pay for their cell phone out of their own pockets are much more likely to talk with significant others frequently through the day – 55% of teens who pay for their phones talk with a boyfriend or girlfriend several times a day, compared with 24% of those who partly pay and 26% of those who do not pay their cell phone bill. Of course, it is difficult to disentangle whether these behaviors are what drives users to select certain plans or a result of the plan selected.