July 2011

Textmessaging by American Teens

A student of mine today draw my attention to the following statistics:

American teens (ages 13-17) on average send or receive a whooping number of 3339 messages a month. I am not sure if this stats is relevant to Canadian teens, but I  would presume, there must be similarities. However, in Canada, the use of cell phones is much more expensive than in most developed countries, which is clearly reflected in the number of mobile phones per capita here: . However, let us go back to text messaging among American teens. This number (3339 messages a month) will translate in about 100 sent or received messages a day. I was just trying to understand what this number means and how big it truly is. Is 100 message a day a lot? This became a small “Fermi Problem” for me. Assuming it takes teens about 15 seconds on average to send or read a message (teens are very fast and the messages are often short), 100 messages a day translates in 1500 seconds of message typing or reading. This is about 25 minutes of typing or reading. Of course, if the average message takes about 30 seconds, then the average time messaging would be 50 minutes or about an hour. How big is it compared to talking on the phone? I would argue that texting condensing information significantly, so if not for texting, teens would have spent more time on the phone…This is actually supported by statistics in the same report.

I would agree with this report that in the future, there will be apps that will make text messaging more convenient and will make a traditional cell-phone usage obsolete…

However what does this report does not discuss is the effect of text messaging on teens. While text messaging they use a lot of shortcuts and improper grammar. If they do it all the time, will it affect their ability to write formally? How will it affect their verbal communication skills? How will it affect the educational landscape? All these questions come to mind as I teach an Educational Technology graduate course… An interesting development we, educators and parents, cannot ignore…


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