Teens Are Poised to Be the Next Power Data Users

U.S. teenagers have quadrupled their mobile data usage, according to a new report from Nielsen, a sign that the traditional power texters are now ready to become serious mobile Internet users.

Teens used an average of 62 megabytes of data each in the second quarter of this year, compared to just 14 megabytes during the same quarter last year. The increase was fueled by teens diving into applications like Facebook and Pandora, along with increasing their use of mobile Internet browsing and picture messaging.

While 62 megabytes per quarter is pretty modest — AT&T’s (s t) light data package is $15 for 200MB a month — the jump in usage suggests that teens, like the young adults just above them, are now moving along the path to serious data usage. That means carriers will be able to sell more data packages and smartphones to youths and families, but it also foreshadows even more demand on their networks as they try to keep up with increased smartphone users and data users.

Teens are still primarily texters, and that habit is only getting deeper. Respondents reported an 8 percent jump in text messages with an average of 3,339 texts a month. That’s six an hour while teens are awake. Young adults (ages 18-24) only muster 1,630 text messages a month. Not surprisingly, teens see less utility in voice calls, which have gone down by 14 percent, averaging 646 minutes per month. Only users over the age of 55 talk less on their cell phones.

What’s interesting is how the relationship between teens and their phones is evolving. Teens no longer cite safety as their number one reason for having a phone as they did in 2008. Now, 43 percent of them say it’s for texting. Also, 94 percent of teens identify as “advanced data users,” because of their use of the mobile Internet, messaging, multimedia and gaming.

This changing self-awareness and jump in data usage present opportunities for the mobile industry. Teens may not be heavy data users now, but at this pace, it won’t be long before they are the new power data users.

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