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As text messaging grows, generations begin bridging gap.

WTTW: LRN 2 TXT BC U WL HAV BTR COMM W/UR KIDS, XPRTS SAY.

Translation: Word to the wise: Learn to text because you will have better communication with your kids, experts say."

Since text messaging really began to hit the mobile scene in 2002--as wireless carriers began to solve the problem of data transmission between networks--a vast generational chasm developed between users.

But the "gr8" (translation: great) divide may begin to narrow, industry professionals say, as older cell phone users continue to discover the usefulness of text messaging, particularly for keeping track of their children.

But first, some numbers.

A recent headcount showed that 8.2 million Americans ages 18 to 24--a seven-year age range--used text messaging as of October 2008, according to a survey by the mobile research company M:Metrics Inc. of Seattle. About the same number of people in the 10-year range between 25 and 34 used text messaging.

But over age 35, the numbers start to sag. About 5.5 million Americans ages 35 to 44 "text," while 3 million people ages 45 to 54 text, and only 1.5 million people ages 55 to 64 text.

And a paltry number of people over 65 use text messaging--428,000.

The survey did not separate data geographically.

In the last three years, however, the number of people between the ages of 55 and 64 texting has experienced growth more than double that of any other group.

That is no coincidence, according to Steve Gray, who climbed a rung at AT&T in November, succeeding Larry Evans as vice president and general manager for the consumer markets of Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Text messaging offers a solution to a problem with which parents have dealt since the invention of cell phones--since, for that matter, the invention of telephones: getting the kids to call home.

A study of 2,070 parents and children, conducted by the market research firm Synovate of Chicago, revealed that children are 56 percent more likely to respond to a text message from a parent than to a call.

Fifty-eight percent of the parents surveyed said their children are easier to reach by text message, and 55 percent said they have more frequent communication with their children through text messaging.

"The fact of the matter is I would much rather text my daughter--this sounds bad--but I'd much rather text her and she'd much rather text me than talk to me," Gray said.

"And the reason for that is, I think, is that she can get a point across pretty quickly. And usually teenagers that want to get points across to the parents don't want to add a lot of color commentary."

The main reason children text their parents is to inform them when they'll be home, 88 percent of respondents said.

The second and third reasons children are most likely to text their parents are to tell their parents they are safe and to ask to be picked up.

Enhanced communication between parents and children is the largest driver of growth in text messaging among the older demographics, Gray said. And AT&T has used the communication phenomenon to expand text messaging among parents.

Several months ago, an advertising campaign in which a daughter spoke to her mother in text message lingo and abbreviations aimed to bolster the idea that parents who learn to text can communicate better with their children.

"I think what's going to drive [more growth in texting] predominantly is the aging of individuals like myself, who, sort of, in the formative years of parenting 'grew up,' so to speak, texting," Gray said.

The cause of the generational gap in text messaging, Gray added, likely occurred because younger demographics adapted to the telephone keypad faster.

"Teens and tweeners have gotten very, very nimble and sort of ergonomically adapted using a regular telephone pad to text. And for me personally, I wasn't very good at it.

"But with the advent of a lot of devices that have QWERTY keyboards that are gaining penetration with the middle market, the parent market, I think that's driving a lot of that usage," Gray said.

Business Finds Uses

Small-business owners have also discovered the usefulness of text messaging.

Daniel Bryant, principal owner of the Flying Burrito, Big Whiskey's and Ernie Biggs in downtown Little Rock and The Fountain in Hillcrest, told Arkansas Business that text messaging helps him juggle four businesses while ensuring that operations run efficiently.

Bryant, 33, said he will often send texts to his employees rather than calling or e-mailing. "I actually choose to text first. And generally the people that I work with, my employees, know to send something back even if it's simply a, 'Hey, copy that,' or 'Confirmed,' or 'Done' or 'Roger.'

"Or I'll phrase [the message] in such a way that it urges a response for the people who don't know."

"I think for me being in the bar and restaurant business, and I have so many of my employees being in that under 30 demographic, and obviously texting for them is second nature if not first nature," Bryant said.

The TKOVR

But Bryant's employees aren't the only ones for whom text messaging is becoming first nature.

A recent survey by Nielsen Mobile, a division of The Nielsen Co., shows that texting has overtaken talking.

U.S. wireless subscribers in six out of eight age demographics now text more often than they make calls. Only people over 55 still call more than text.

Nielsen also averaged the number of calls made versus the number of text messages sent by all 50,000 participants for each quarter from the beginning of 2006. The study showed the scales tipping toward text messaging right at the end of 2007.

Though the comment wasn't in reference to the Nielsen survey, Bryant aptly summed things up: "It's kind of like get on board or get left behind."

TAFN. HAGD. (See "LRN 2 TXT")

By Jamie Walden

jwalden@abpg.com

RELATED ARTICLE: LRN 2 TXT.

For those who aren't yet fluent in text message shorthand, below is a list of terms you might find handy, particularly in a text from or to your child. For a comprehensive list, visit netlingo.com/emailsh.cfm and you'll be text savvy in no time.
831                                      I love you
9 or CD9                              Parent around
AITR                              Adult in the room
BTW                                      By the way
CUWTA                    Catch up with the acronyms
CYE                               Check your e-mail
DIY                                  Do it yourself
EMSG                                 E-mail message
HAGD                                Have a good day
HAND                                Have a nice day
HHIS                          Hanging head in shame
HTH                                 Hope this helps
I&I                     Intercourse and inebriation
IAC                                     In any case
IDK                                    I don't know
IHA                                 I hate acronyms
JK                                     Just kidding
KISS                         Keep it simple, stupid
LMK                                     Let me know
LOL                               Laughing out loud
LOML                                Love of my life
MYOB                         Mind your own business
NTTAWWT   Not that there's anything wrong with that
POS                            Parent over shoulder
PRW                            Parents are watching
QL                                             Cool
SOME1                                       Someone
TAFN                             That's all for now
TISHF                           This is so not fair
TMI                            Too much information
TML                                  Thank me later
TWIMC                        To whom it may concern
YWIA                      You're welcome in advance

TEXT MESSAGES SENT

2004    24.78
2005    81.28
2006   158.68
2007   362.58
2008   384.98

Note: Table made from line graph.
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Comment:As text messaging grows, generations begin bridging gap.
Author:Walden, Jamie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Jan 12, 2009
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