Research: How Young Latinos Communicate with Friends in the Digital Age

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. These findings are based on a new analysis of data from a nationwide telephone survey of Latinos conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

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 use a cell phone, with use greater among the native born than the foreign born—84% versus 70% (Livingston, 2010).

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,1 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.

Hispanics are the nation’s largest and youngest minority ethnic group. In 2008, there were 46.9 million Hispanics in the U.S., representing 15.4% of the total U.S. population. Among young people, Hispanics represent an even larger share. Some 18%, or 7.5 million, of those ages 16 to 25 are Hispanic (Pew Hispanic Center, 2010).

Other key findings:

Language: While 68% of English-dominant and half (50%) of bilingual young Latinos use text messaging daily for communication, just 19% of Spanish-dominant young Latinos do the same.

Gender: Young Hispanic males are less likely than young Hispanic females to use social networking sites for communication—19% versus 27%. In contrast, young female Hispanics are less likely than young Hispanic males to communicate face-to-face outside school or work with their friends—15% versus 26%.

Hispanic Youths vs. Hispanic Adults: Hispanics ages 16 to 25 are more likely than Hispanics ages 26 and older to use mobile technologies to communicate with their friends. While half (50%) of young Latinos use texting to communicate, just 21% of older Latinos do the same.

Latino Youths vs. Other Youths: Among those ages 16 to 17, Latino youths are less likely than non-Latino youths to communicate daily via a landline or home phone with their friends—13% versus 32%.

Read here the full study.