IDC's new survey of nearly 8,000 U.S. teens between 13 to 18 who use mobile phones shows that these devices have become a social necessity. About 35.9 percent of the teens bought a cell phone with the primary goal of sending text messages to their friends while an additional 13.3 percent said they acquired them to talk with friends.
IDC's study also indicates that cell phone usage drivers differ between teen boys and girls. Girls were more likely than boys to have purchased cell phones in order to call their family or to use in emergency situations, while boys preferred to call their friends. Boys were also more inclined than girls to use text messaging on their cell phones – girls, more than boys, preferred talking directly to their friends over text messaging them.
"Unlike any technology before it, cell phones have become important social catalysts for teenagers," said Dana Thorat, research manager at IDC. "While parents can be rest assured that they can reach their mobile teenagers virtually any place and any time, teens conversely perceive their phones as a means for gaining social acceptance and staying connected with friends."
For those teens that do not yet have their first cell phone, IDC expects many are now pestering their parents as they head back to school this fall. Looking ahead, an emerging wireless teen majority brings huge implications for new social behaviors among this generation. The implications for student populations could be just as tantamount. Current school policies that require the silencing of cell phone ringers during the school day may already be obsolete – dexterous thumbing on a phone's keypad under a desk is all it takes for seasoned texters to conduct covert conversations with others during class.