Center for Media Justice home of the Media Action Grassroots Network

How Young Latinos Communicate with Friends in the Digital Age

By Mark Hugo Lopez, Associate Director, Pew Hispanic Center and Gretchen Livingston, Senior Researcher, Pew Hispanic Center

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When it comes to socializing and communicating with friends, young Latinos (ages 16 to 25) make extensive use of mobile technology. Half say they text message (50%) their friends daily, and 45% say they talk daily with friends on a cell phone. Other communication platforms are less widely used for socializing. For example, fewer than one-in-five young Latinos (18%) say they talk daily with their friends on a landline or home phone, and just 10% say they email their friends daily.

Use of mobile communication technologies differs notably among young Latinos by nativity. Two-thirds (65%) of the native born say they communicate with their friends by text message daily, while just 26% of the foreign born do so. And more than half (55%) of the native born talk daily by cell phone with their friends, while just 29% of the foreign born say they do the same.

These differences are explained in part by the fact that the native born are more likely than the foreign born to have a cell phone in the first place. Overall, eight-in-ten (79%) young Latinos say they have a cell phone, with the native born more likely than the foreign born to have one—84% versus 70%.

Even though text messaging and cell phone calls are the most widely used mediums of social communication among young Latinos, they use these platforms less extensively than do their non-Latino counterparts. Among 16- and 17-year-olds, just under half (49%) of Hispanics text daily, compared with 64% of non-Hispanics. When it comes to talking with friends daily via cell phone, there is less of a difference—44% of Hispanics say they do, compared with half (51%) of non-Hispanics who say the same.

This report is based on the 2009 National Survey of Latinos, which was conducted from August 5 through September 16, 2009 among a randomly selected, nationally representative sample of 2,012 Hispanics ages 16 and older. The survey was conducted in both English and Spanish, on cellular as well as landline telephones. The margin of error for respondents ages 16 to 25 is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

Other Resources

Fox, Susannah and Gretchen Livingston. "Latinos Online," Pew Internet & American Life Project and Pew Hispanic Center, Washington, D.C. (March 14, 2007).

Lenhart, Amanda, Rich Ling, Scott Campbell and Kristen Purcell. "Teens and Mobile Phones," Pew Internet & American Life Project, Washington, D.C. (April 20, 2010).

Livingston, Gretchen, Kim Parker and Susannah Fox. "Latinos Online 2006-2008: Narrowing the Gap," Pew Hispanic Center, Washington, D.C. (December 22, 2009).

Pew Hispanic Center, "Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America," Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2009).

Smith, Aaron. "Mobile Access 2010," Pew Internet & American Life Project, Washington, D.C. (July 7, 2010).

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