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.