Yesterday my editor was complaining that her 17 year old daughter refused to get a driver’s license. So what do you do when your teenager would rather be driven around LA than get a car herself?
I suggested that my editor threaten to take away her daughter's cell phone away. Of course - it's easy for me to say - I don't have a teenage daughter. There is mounting evidence that mobile phones - especially smartphones - are replacing cars as the must-have appliance for any teen who is looking for liberation and fredom. And according to Neilsen, how teens use their phones is changing rapidly. Teens are calling less, texting more and using lots and lots more data. Three times more this year than last.
Teens have always been avid texters. According to Neilsen the average teenage girl sent and received 3952 text messages a month. That's more than 120 messages a day. The average boy sends and receives more than 2,800 texts.
But that doesn’t explain the surge in data useage. Texting is hardly new. It also doesn’t use a huge amount of data. And teen boys use more data than teen girls but are texting less. So something else is going on here.
What's happening is that more teens are getting smartphones, and, when they do, they are much more likely to start sucking down huge amounts of data. They are watching videos on their phones or using other data-intensive apps. In short, for many teens, their mobile phones have become the center of their universe.
So who needs a car? Especaily if you mom's willing to cart you around.
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Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter until December 2011. He filed stories for the entire Marketplace portfolio. In addition, Henn occasionally acted as the back-up host for Marketplace Tech Report.