Mobile Data Usage Among Teenagers Triples Year Over Year

Teenagers and texting have joined the likes of peanut butter and jelly as natural, inextricable pairs that may never again be separated for the duration of human history.

According to the latest data and corresponding insights from Nielsen, U.S. teenagers have tripled their mobile data usage in the last year – all while remaining kings and queens of texting.

Messaging remains the centerpiece of mobile teen behavior in the U.S. The number of messages exchanged (SMS and MMS) hit 3,417 messages per month per teen in Q3 2011, averaging seven messages per waking hour. Teen females are leading the charge, sending and receiving 3,952 messages per month versus 2,815 from males.

Aside from messaging, Nielsen announced, data heavy activities such as mobile internet, social networking, email, app downloads, and app usage are the most popular mobile activities.

“Teenagers have officially joined the data tsunami,” the report reads, “more than tripling their mobile data consumption in the past year while maintaining their stronghold as the leading message senders.”

Using recent data from monthly cell phone bills of 65,000+ mobile subscribers who volunteered to participate in the research, Nielsen has analyzed mobile usage trends among teens in the United States. In the third quarter of 2011, teens aged 13-17 used an average of 320 MB of data per month on their phones, up 256 percent over last year and growing at a rate faster than any other age group. Much of this activity is driven by teen males, who took in 382 MB per month while females used 266 MB.

“The explosion in data usage is being driven by an increase in the popularity of media-rich activities – like music, video and the use of apps – which themselves are being fueled by higher smartphone penetration,” says Nielsen managing director Telecom Europe, David Gosen. “As data usage increases, operators need to work out how to maintain the speed and quality of their service and how to charge appropriately. In the US, different operators have tried different options, from tiered data plans to actively targeting consumers who use the most data. Customer segmentation will become increasingly important for operators, as the pressures on profitability challenge the viability of all-you-can-eat data plans.”

Is the information above truly a revelation about American teens, or a no-brainer reality that will probably grow more pronounced over the next twelve months?