Aug. 24, 2010— -- Want some insight into American life in 2010? Then just listen closely to the cell phones.
Those buzzing, beeping, ever-present devices have a lot to say about modern society, according to new data released by the Nielsen company. Every month, the data-tracking firm goes through phone bills from 60,000 people all over the country, breaking down cell phone and text usage by gender, race, age, and even region, with some interesting findings.
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"Pretty much everyone has a cell phone these days," said Jonathan Carson, CEO of Telecom for Nielsen. "We're reaching a point where we'll have more than 100 percent penetration because people carry multiple devices."
According to the data, women on the whole are bigger talkers and texters than men. On average, women use 22 percent more cell phone minutes than men, and they even text more, sending 154 more messages per month than the average American man.
Kids, of course, also use their mobile devices in different ways. Teens text more than any other group, sending a stunning average of 2,779 texts per month, which works out to about eight SMS messages for every waking hour. Text usage drops off steadily among older age groups, with senior citizens receiving an average of just 30 per month.
Texting has become such a mainstay for teens and children that their usage has even pushed increasing numbers of parents to adopt texting as a way to communicate with their kids.
"People start carrying mobile phones at younger and younger ages, and at this point, tweens -- people in the range of 12 to 14, more than half of them are actually now carrying mobile phones," said Carson.
Cell Phone Usage and Race
Different races also use mobile phones differently, according to the Nielsen numbers. African Americans talk and text more than any other racial group, using more than 1,300 minutes per month and sending and receiving 780 text messages per month on average.
"African Americans actually talk more than twice as much as whites do," Carson said, adding that there's strong mobile penetration among all populations.
Whites on average use 647 minutes per month, while the Asian/Pacific Islander population uses 697 monthly minutes. Hispanics talk an average of 826 minutes per month.
In texting, Asian/pacific Islanders log an average of 384 per month, compared to 566 for whites and 767 monthly texts for Hispanics.
And just as there are differences in Americans' accents across the country, there are regional differences in how people use their phones.
According to Nielsen, Southerners talk and text the most, talking more than 800 minutes on average in Gulf Coast states. Nielsen says that has more to do with demography than speech rate.
"I'm a Southern boy myself. I want to dispel the myth that we talk more or use more minutes because we talk a little slower," said Carson, who grew up in Virginia. "In actuality, southern states have larger populations of African Americans and Latinos, and they're also younger than other states. So that's probably part of the driver for the heavier usage."
ABC's Dan Arnall contributed to this report.