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Study on cell phone usage among American college students

Cell phones are extremely popular among young people across the world. Cross-cultural research has revealed interesting similarities and differences regarding cell phone usage by young people from different countries. In this post, I report on a study on cell phone usage by college students in USA.

Aoki & Downes (2003) investigated cell phone usage among American college students from a behavioral and psychological perspective. Their objectives were to (a) find out why college students acquired a cell phone and (b) to determine the relationship between cell phone usage behavior and intrinsic motivations about usage.

They used mixed - methods – both qualitative (focus groups) and quantitative (surveys) to collect data. They conducted four focus groups (32 students) and administered a survey to 137 students.

Their results from focus groups indicated that there were nine motivational themes for which college students acquired a cell phone. These were – personal safety, financial incentive, information access, social interaction, parental contacts, time management/coordination, dependency, image and privacy management.

With regard to the behavioral characteristics – most respondents obtained a cell phone when they entered college; the majority made five or fewer calls per day; majority of calls were made from “on the street” followed by “at home” and “at school”; most often the cell phones were used to call “friends and relatives”, “boyfriends or girlfriends”, and “immediate family members”; majority made calls from their cell phones at night and more than half the respondents said that their parents were paying their phone bills.

By performing a Q factor analysis, they identified five groups of cell phone users -

1. Group 1 – “Cost conscious” – This was the largest group and believed that cell phone is the cheaper way to make calls. They spend a lot of time receiving calls and talking on cell phones but did not make most of the calls.

2. Group 2 – “Security/Safety conscious” – This group felt that having a cell phone makes them feel safer. They used cell phones very minimally.

3. Group 3 – “Dependent” – The students in this group felt lost without their cell phones and they used the cell phones frequently.

4. Group 4 – “Sophisticated” – For this group, owning a cell phone equaled to having a style statement. They were the early adopters among the group and also tend to make the most number of calls.

5. Group 5 – “Practical users” – This group used the cell phone because it made sense. They did not care about the style or believed it was a necessity. They used the cell phones moderately when they needed to use it.

This study showed that even within a homogeneous group such as college students there could be distinct groups of users. It would be interesting to see if these groups would have similar characteristics in other cultures as well.

10 comments

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5 Ginger Held { 09.25.09 at 2:08 pm }

I am a graduated student doing research on the effects of cell phones on middle school student averages. If you have any suggestions on articles or journals, please forward
Thank you.

6 Luis Brouillet { 10.02.09 at 1:33 pm }

Can anyone tell me about mobile prepaid airtime stats among students? How many times they reload the cell phones per month? What amounts? and where? meaning, if this activity is done inside the campus grounds or retail stores outside the campuses.

7 Priyanka { 02.04.10 at 3:48 pm }

Hi Ginger, Sorry for replying late. I am only getting back to blogging now. I haven’t really looked at the impact of mobile phone usage on education but you can probably look at New Media and Society and search the database.

8 Thor johnson { 02.08.12 at 7:31 pm }

I am currently a college student and doing a blog on the same topic. This article opens up new insight on why college students use their cell phones and it also help to better understand why there has been an increase in studies among the youth using cell phones. It makes more sense when it is broken down into five different groups with different categories to see the real reason why students use their phones. Whether it is for only calling friends and family or just in case of emergencies. But I was wonder did the study that you tagged in your post say anything about texting and the use of that among college students?

9 safari, i. { 02.13.12 at 2:00 pm }

Hi Priyanka,
You had a very interesting study and I would like to add that there are student who own a hand set because their peers do have and that becomes a way of showing solidarity with others. However, I am also doing research on the same subject but basing on st. Augustine university of Tanzania only. Please send some additional insights.

10 cnc plastic machining { 08.08.13 at 12:35 pm }

I’m really inspired with your writing abilities and also with the structure in your blog. Is this a paid subject or did you customize it your self? Anyway keep up the excellent high quality writing, it’s
rare to look a nice blog like this one nowadays..

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