Teen mobile data mania signals profound shift in communication styles

Researcher Nielsen reports that consumption of mobile data by teenagers exploded by 256 percent, with the average teen sending 7 text messages every waking hour.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

I'm sure this will not come as a surprise to any adult dealing with the unique challenges of raising a teenager, but it sort of floored me: According to the latest research on mobile data usage by researcher Nielsen, teenagers aged 13-17 are by far the fastest growing demographic when it comes to increasing their use of mobile data services.

Come to think of it, this doesn't really surprise me, as I visualize my common view of the top of many of friends' teenagers heads as they bow in worship over their mobile devices, thumbs whirring.

During the third quarter of 2011, Nielsen reports that teens consumed an average of 320 megabytes of data per month on their phones, up 256 percent over a year ago. Teen males led the way, using 382 megabytes per month.

Much of that mobile data consumption comes in the form of text messaging; during the third quarter of 2011, the average was 3,417 per month per teen, which translates into seven messages per waking hour. Girls were the leaders in text messaging. Mobile Internet, social networking, email, mobile app downloads and mobile app usage were other popular uses, according to Nielsen.

The researcher drew its data from its study of information from the monthly bills of more than 65,000 mobile subscribers.

Another statistic that bears sharing: Over the past year, the amount of time that teenagers spend actually talking on the phone fell pretty dramatically to 572 minutes per month to 685 minutes.

The takeaways from this data are myriad.

If your business caters to a teenage clientele, clearly this is the place to reach them. I'm thinking customer support, not just the obvious marketing or advertising activities.

But an even bigger revelation, perhaps, should be for managers across Corporate America. That is because anywhere from five years to 10 years from now, this generation will be entering the workforce in a wave, bringing those communications preferences with them.

That means education will probably be needed on the part of both these new workers and their managers about communications etiquette. The terse style of texting might not be the best strategy for a sales person or a customer service agent. It also means that the sorts of technologies and tools that businesses provide to their employees will look dramatically different within a decade.

Something to think about next time you yell at a teenager to put down his or her mobile or smartphone.

(Image courtesy of Stock.xchng)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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