August 17, 2015

For teens, phone calls are reserved for closer relationships

Marc Romanelli/Getty Images
Marc Romanelli/Getty Images

Texting is the most common and frequent way that teens communicate with all types of friends, from the ones they’ve just met to more established relationships. But teens haven’t abandoned phone calling. A recent Pew Research Center survey on teens, technology and friendship finds that phone calls are an important way that teens connect, particularly with their closest friends.

For Many Teens, Phone Number for Texting Is the First Thing They Share With New FriendsThe survey asked teens to rank the types of contact information they would most commonly share with a new friend. About half of teens (52%) told us that a phone number for calling is one of the first three types of information they would share, but only 9% say this is the first contact information they would exchange. By comparison, 80% of teens share their phone number for texting with a new friend, and 54% say it is the first thing they would give to a new friend.

While few teens say the primary way they connect with new friends is through phone calls, teens are more likely to talk with their closest friends by phone.

Teens with close friends also provided their top three ways of reaching these friends. Text messaging was again the most popular, with 80% of teens naming it as one of their top three choices and 49% saying it is the most common way they keep in touch. But phone calls are second: 69% of teens cite phone calls as one of their top choices for talking with their best friends, including 13% who say it’s their most common way of keeping in touch.

Phone-based Communication Is Overall Most Popular Method for Reaching Closest FriendTeen girls (75%) are more likely than teen boys (62%) to cite phone calls as one of their preferred ways to talk with close friends, and black teens are especially likely to do so: 84% of black teens say phone calls are a top choice for talking with close friends, compared with 69% of white teens and 63% of Hispanic teens.

Focus-group data collected by Pew Research Center last year reinforces the notion that teens use different channels of communication depending on the closeness of a friendship. Several teens were wary of giving out their phone numbers to someone whom they had only recently met, including one middle school girl who said: “I don’t really give new people my phone number. I think that’s giving too much information.” Other teens described talking to a new friend over the phone as potentially “weird” or “awkward.”

In focus groups, teens also explained why phone calls are reserved for more intimate relationships. One high school girl said: “If it’s your best friend. You’d be on the phone with them. It’s because you have a lot to talk about. But like if it’s just a regular friend, or you guys just associate from time to time, you typically text them because you don’t really have anything to talk about.”

Topics: Internet Activities, Mobile, Social Networking, Teens and Technology, Texting

  1. Photo of Monica Anderson

    is a research analyst focusing on internet, science and technology at Pew Research Center.

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1 Comment

  1. Vance Martin9 months ago

    May we infer from the analysis that, if an older generation is patient & open to non/judgmental conversation, teens are likely to be open to conversation and, for a senior respondent, more likely to feel comfortable & candid with the older person? Texting is replete with jargon and braggadocio, performance, style and sharp retort. That works with both “homies” and “haters”. But for a heart-to-heart exchange, you need to talk!

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