Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cell phone is mom-avoidance device for teens

Tweens and teens are pushing parents to adopt text messaging so they don't have to talk "live" over the cell phone, according to mobile phone executives.

A typical teenager carrying a cell phone might let mom's call roll over to voicemail and then immediately text her back, "What going on?," according to Stephen Saiz, manager of consumer insight and strategy of the Walt Disney Internet Group's North American mobile division.

"Teens are pushing their parents to go on mobile because they don't really want to communicate with them directly," Saiz said here on a panel of mobile executives at the YPulse 2008 National Mashup, a two-day conference on teens and technology.

He said later in an interview that his Disney division researches teens' and parents' behavior on the cell phone and with its mobile applications. The majority of older audiences using Disney mobile applications skew to mothers who are goaded there by their kids, he said. And most tweens and teens prefer to text message and instant chat with parents and friends rather than talk directly so that they can continue doing other things like play video games with friends, he said.

More broadly, nearly one out of every two U.S. tweens (or kids between 10 and 13 years old) and 83 percent of teens own a cell phone, according to new research from Chicago-based C&R Research. And with that many kids using mobile devices, the text messages are flying.

The average teen, according to C&R, generates between 50 and 70 text messages a day, or as many as 18,000 a year.

Despite the flurry of activity, it's not all about mobile communication for teens anymore. More U.S. teens are looking for social networking and entertainment via the cell phone. Saiz, for example, said that young people are looking for full-length video on the mobile phone, despite the perception that kids just want to "info-snack," or consume small bits of information. "Young people are looking for long-form content," he said.

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