SIKESTON -- For the past few months, 16-year-old Ashley Taylor has been using her cell phone constantly to communicate with her friends -- but she isn't doing it the old-fashioned way by talking, instead, she's texting.
Text messaging has become a hot trend for American cell phone users, and it's especially been popular with teenagers.
Taylor has had as many as 300 messages a month, and she receives about 10 messages a day, she said.
"One month my bill was $70, and my mom wasn't too happy about that," Taylor said.
Thirty-three percent of kids ages 12-15 have cell phones; 52 percent of kids ages 16-17 and 62 percent of children ages 18-19 have cell phones, according to a market research-based company Teenage Unlimited. And 37 percent of teen cell users also use text messaging.
"Ashley uses (text messaging) extensively," noted Karen Turner about her daughter. "I know she and her friends are constantly text messaging each other. There's a lot more text messaging than calling."
Taylor said she uses text messaging to contact her friends and her boyfriend.
So what do these teenagers have to say?
"Gossip," Taylor said. "Basically anything you can type, but you are limited to 160 letters."
Everybody has a cell phone, Taylor said, adding that text messaging isn't hard to do.
"I've got it down pretty good," Taylor admitted. "My mom doesn't really use it that much, but sometimes I'll send her message like, 'Dork' or something like that."
It's very nice to have, Turner said, admitting that she doesn't text messages to people as much as she receives them.
"Usually, if Ashley text messages me, rather than send her a message, I'll call her instead," Turner said.
Shelly Coppage, owner of Bootheel Wireless, said she's noticed more people upgrading their cell phone packages with the text messaging option. People between the ages of 14-39 are the majority of the people who are using the text messaging, Coppage noted.
Parents are coming in with their children, and mostly the young kids are wanting or using the text messaging, Coppage said.
"In fact, I'll have people who will leave without getting the package and the parents will call me back and say: 'We need to add the package with text messaging because my child is using it so much,'" Coppage explained.
Natasha Eaton of Homestead Electronics agreed. Most of the younger generation who are newly activating their phones are adding text messaging to their phones. It's a way they can communicate without actually talking on the phone, she said.
Text messaging, or Short Message Service (SMS), isn't just for teenagers either.
"I was in the movie theater the other night and started getting all these calls so I put my phone ring on silent and started texting people. Rather than bother people in the theater or have to go out into the lobby, I just text messaged people what I wanted to say or told them when I'd be available," Coppage explained.
Eaton and her co-workers also use text messaging. Truck drivers have been popular customers, too, Eaton said.
Text messaging is steadily increasing, Eaton said. She and her co-workers have even had to fill out surveys from their company about their text messaging customers' inquiries.
"You can send and receive text messages by e-mail, too," Coppage said. "It's just another way of communicating with each other."