NPR > Morning Edition > December 1 2009
About a third of Americans have gone online using a cell phone or other hand-held device. And an increasing number of people are using the devices for activities such as texting, sending e-mails, playing music and instant messaging.
According to a new report by the Pew Hispanic Center, most of those hyperusers are young Latinos and blacks.
1 > Networking Teens
Three teenagers on their way home after an evening out in a Washington, D.C., suburb, pausing at a crosswalk in a busy pedestrian mall, offer an example of the first reason: networking.
They say their phones are always with them and they use them to text, connect to the Internet or get directions from a GPS application. Now that they text, they use it to stay in touch with their parents throughout the day.
That cross-generational exchange is typical of how the use of technology catches on, then spreads among just about all ethnic groups. It just happens more among blacks and Latinos. Both the Pew Center and the Nielsen Co. report that blacks and Hispanics are using their phones more robustly than are whites.
2. Cheaper Than A Home Connection
These customers represent reason No. 2 for increased use among Hispanics and blacks: A mobile upgrade is cheaper than paying for a home broadband connection and a computer. [snip]
3. Communicating Across Borders
Not far from that sales counter, Ornelio Perez is waiting for a bus after a day at his landscaping job. He's 46, from Guatemala, and represents another of the four reasons for the increased use: convenience. "Sometimes my family in Guatemala leaves me a text message or I send one to them. For us it's easier to stay in contact across borders and time zones with texting and calling."
4. For Youth, It's About Convenience
In a Washington, D.C., high school, a group of black teenagers represents the fourth reason for increased usage: youth.
Roosevelt High School senior Lawan Johnson says she uses a phone because of the cost and convenience. Her dependency on mobile technology makes her an early adopter. "I decided I wanted a phone over a laptop," Johnson says. "Like you have to worry about Wi-Fi and all that stuff. And you're not always going to be able to take your laptop everywhere you go, so I decided a phone is more convenient."
Just a few years ago these mischievous teens might have been on the losing side of the so-called digital divide.
But with their sophisticated uses of hand-held devices, blacks and Hispanics may be looking across that gap from the other side.
Pew Report > Wireless Internet Use (July 22 2009)