Kids, you've heard of phone calls, right? Did you know that there's an app on your smartphone that lets you talk out loud to family and friends? Ask your grandparents about it.
We're being facetious, but it's true that the stereotype of a chatty teen or young adult spending hours talking on the phone is fading. Those interactions are being replaced by the image of a kid hunched over a handset, tapping out texts, emails, or Facebook messages.
Two new pieces of research highlight just how common that image has become.
A British study conducted by independent media regulator Ofcom found that among 16- to 24-year-olds, phone calls are being superseded by texts or other e-messages. Per the research, 96 percent use some form of text-based communication -- either though social networks (73 percent) or through traditional texting (90 percent) -- on a daily basis. By comparison, only 67 percent of that age group talks on the phone daily. Overall, total time spent on the phone declined 5 percent for Britons of all ages, the first such drop since the 1990s, according to The Guardian.
And new research from Pew finds similar trends among teens stateside. As NBC News explains, 63 percent of teens text every day, compared to only 39 percent making or taking cell phone calls daily. And it seems social networking (29 percent daily use) and instant messaging (22 percent) are increasingly taking up U.S. teens' time, too.
Taken together, these studies appear to foreshadow a time in the not-so-distant future when text-based messages are the norm and phone calls are thought of as a quaint, nonessential way to get in touch.
In fact, that day may come sooner than you think, if the chief executive of one of the largest American phone carriers is to be believed. "I'll be surprised if, in the next 24 months, we don't see people in the market place with data-only plans," AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said at a conference in June. "I just think that's inevitable."
Consider it the beginning of the end of the phone call as we know it, with teens leading the trend.
Contact Your Phone
<a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2363526,00.asp"target="_blank">PCMag</a> recommends using another phone to text your lost phone with a message offering a reward for the device, and you can always try calling it as well. If you don't have a phone handy, you can use a service like Skype, Google Voice or <a href="http://www.fonefindr.com/"target="_blank">fonefindr.com</a> to ping your phone. It can't hurt -- someone may have found your phone or maybe you'll find hear it ringing between the couch cushions.
Call Your Carrier
After you've called or texted your phone, retraced your steps, and shed a few tears in frustration over losing your precious device, you'll want to call your cellphone carrier immediately and tell them your phone has been lost or stolen. Ask them to suspend service (i.e. disable messaging and calls) on the device, because thieves could rack up thousands of dollars in international calls or app purchases. AT&T will even let you do this from your <a href="http://www.wireless.att.com/answer-center/main.jsp?t=solutionTab&solutionId=KB63935"target="_blank">account on the Web</a>.
Password Protect Your Phone
With all the messages, years of email, contacts, social networking accounts and other personal data stored on today's smartphones, we can't recommend password protecting your phone enough. Yes, it's a momentary frustration that requires you tap a few numbers every time you check your phone, but the extra security and peace of mind is worth the effort. While a thief could still wipe a password-protected device and there's always the possibility you just lost the phone for good, the alternative (going password-free) leaves not only your cellphone account but your bank, social networking, and e-mail accounts completely open. If your phone <em>was</em> stolen and you haven't locked it down, immediately change the passwords to your online accounts and alert any banks or services that you enabled on the phone.
Use Remote Protection Apps
Many remote security apps are now available for modern smartphones, and they offer everything from near real-time location tracking (often showing your phone's location on a map via a Web interface) and the ability to remote wipe your phone in case of theft to remote photo and data backup. There are many free options, and they take just a few minutes to install and set up. Your corporate BlackBerry can probably be wiped and tracked by your company's IT admins, and consumers can grab the free BlackBerry Protect from <a href="http://us.blackberry.com/apps-software/protect/"target="_blank">BlackBerry App World</a> for remote tracking and wiping. iPhone users should download the free '<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/find-my-iphone/id376101648?mt=8"target="_blank">Find My iPhone</a>' app Android users can grab the free <a href="http://preyproject.com/"target="_blank">Prey</a> app. Similarly, other third party solutions like <a href="http://www.mobiledefense.com/"target="_blank">Mobile Defense</a>, <a href="https://www.mylookout.com/"target="_blank">Lookout</a> can help secure your device.
Save Your Phone's Unique ID
Take a note of your phone's ESN, IMEI or MEID number (often found behind the battery or on the back of the iPhone near the FCC ID). This number will come in handy when reporting a lost or stolen phone to the police or to your cellphone provider.
Schedule Regular Backups
It sounds obvious, but regularly back up your device to your computer to ensure that you don't lose essentials documents, purchases, apps and photos that are stored only on your phone. Even if you're forced to wipe your cellphone or if it's lost for good, you can often restore a factory fresh replacement to the last backup you've got, complete with apps, settings and documents. Depending on how much you use your phone, we recommend backing up between once a month and once a week.