American teenagers send an average of 3,146 text messages a month, according to research from consumer analyst Nielsen, but it isn't as expensive as parents think.

The findings, released January 27 from an analysis of more than 40,000 US mobile bills, suggest that teens are sending approximately ten messages every hour of the month that they are not asleep or in school. Even the under-12s are sending an average of 1,146 messages a month, almost four per waking hour not spent in school.

The figures are likely to horrify parents who are saddled with the bill, but Nielsen estimates that the price of a US text message has significantly dropped in the past two years - 47 percent between first quarter 2008 and third quarter 2009. The actual cost per message sent is around 1 cent (€0.007), says the firm. This is because the vast majority of users are subscribed to a monthly plan, which offers discounts of around 95 percent on the costs that would be incurred were users on a pay-as-you-go mobile plan.

"After all the negative publicity that text messaging has received, a look at the facts is showing quite a different picture," said Nielsen's Roger Entner. "When one takes into account usage, text messaging is very affordable and cheaper than ever before especially when compared to various European countries. "

Text messaging is not as widespread in Europe, where the average cost per message is significantly higher. Whilst most American carriers bundle unlimited texts for between $10 and $20 (€7.12 and €14.25) per month, this is not the case across the Atlantic. In Germany, for instance, the largest European market, wireless providers charge about €25 for between 300 text messages and 30 MMS and up to 3000 text messages per month.