New research showing that the average teenager sends and receives 3,339 cell phone texts a month -- more than 100 per day -- doesn't surprise many American parents. These include some people whose text-centric cell phone bills total 300 pages and are delivered in a box.
But it isn't just teens who are communicating via the abbreviated word. A Nielsen Co. survey released last month found that adults ages 45 to 54 texted much more and talked less in the second quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2009. The information was gleaned from the cell phone bills of 60,000 users of varying ages and a survey of 3,000 teens. Likewise, a Pew Research Center study found that 72 percent of adults sent or received text messages in May this year, compared with 65 percent in September 2009.
While adults' send-receive average lagged behind the younger generation, with 323 texts during that period, it was a 75 percent jump from the year before, according to the Nielsen study. Adults made 188 mobile calls per month, down 25 percent from three years ago.
The trade association for the wireless telecommunications industry has been tracking the growth of texting, known as Short Message Service, or SMS. The practice has exploded from 12.2 million texts per month in 2000 to 173.2 billion a month in 2010, according to CTIA, The Wireless Association in Washington, D.C.
Many parents have reluctantly taken up texting because their children don't respond to calls or e-mails. Others opt for texting because they say it is an easier, quicker way to confirm appointments or just say hello.
Some educators, too, have decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
At Tahquitz High School in the southern California city of Hemet, texting is embraced in classrooms as a new learning tool. Rather than banning phones, the school has opened Facebook and Twitter accounts, created Wiki pages and encourages texting answers in class. The principal has said the current generation is used to multitasking and can learn effectively when connected to technology.
Teachers use educational software to post questions on a projection screen. Students text their answers, which are posted immediately and allow the teacher to see how many grasp the topic at hand.
Allowing cell phones in class does away with the "subversive attractiveness" of sneaking them in, said John Alberti, a Northern Kentucky University professor and author of the textbook "Text Messaging: Reading and Writing About Popular Culture." They are also valuable tools for writing.
"If we think of it as writing, it will allow us to deal with it more constructively," he said.
Most kids realize that the creative spelling and shortcuts of texting should not be used in papers, Alberti said. He praised the practice as expressive, lively, complicated and imaginative, all positive qualities when it comes to writing.
"It's here. It's not going away," Alberti said. "You can either hide in a cave or accept this as part of contemporary communication."
(Contact Janet Zimmerman at jzimmerman(at)PE.com.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)