Cell Phone Culture Breeds Security, Irritation, Study Finds

Adults are texting more than ever before, but not nearly as much as teenagers, and more people are getting annoyed with the frequency of it, a report from the Pew Research Center finds.

The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project's "Cell Phones and American Adults" report found that grownups are catching up with the tech-savvy younger generation when it comes to text messaging: Some 72 percent of adult cell phone users send and receive text messages now, up from 65 percent in September 2009. In comparison, the study found fully 87 percent of teen cell users text. Teens text 50 messages a day on average, five times more than the typical 10 text messages sent and received by adults per day.

The study found African-American and English-speaking Hispanics are more likely to own a cell phone and to use their handset more intensively than their white counterparts, with 87 percent of African-Americans and English-speaking Hispanics owning cell phones, compared to 80 percent of whites. Twelve percent of African-Americans and 14 percent of English-speaking Hispanics make and receive more than 30 calls a day on their mobile phones, while only 4 percent of whites report placing and receiving that many calls. The report noted African-American and Hispanic texters typically send and receive 10 texts a day; whites who text typically send and receive five texts a day.

"Texting among adults has reached the mainstream and the charge is being led by African-Americans, Hispanics and young adults," said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and author of the report. "Of course, none of these adult groups hold a candle to teens when it comes to texting, who swamp adults in messages sent per day by a factor of five."

However, for all the enthusiasm teens and adults have for texting and talking on their cells, Americans have mixed feelings about the role of the mobile phone in their lives, the study discovered. Most cell users report that their cell phone makes them feel safer (91 percent), and that they appreciate the way it allows them to arrange plans with family and friends (88 percent agreed). But mobile phone users also report that they get irritated when a call or text interrupts them (42 percent) and that they find it rude when others check their phones repeatedly during meetings or conversations (86 percent).

Some of the other main findings of the report include the discovery that heavy users of cell phones for texting are heavy users of the phone for calling as well, while light texters are generally light callers and vice versa. The study also found 65 percent of American adults with cell phones sleep with their phone on or right next to their bed, and, likely adding to cell phone irritation, 57 percent of adults with cells report receiving unwanted or spam text messages on their phone. In addition, the report found 90 percent of parents have a cell phone compared with 72 percent of adults without children under 18 at home.

The findings come from a nationwide telephone survey of 2,252 American adults (including 744 interviewed on cell phones) conducted between April 29 and May 30. The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project is one of seven projects that make up the Center. The project's aim, according to the company Website, is to be an authoritative source on the evolution of the Internet through surveys that examine how Americans use the Internet and how their activities affect their lives.