Why is WhatsApp a success? Flirting teens.

New research from Deloitte attributes the success of apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat to teens using them to flirt with each other.

Over the last couple of years we've seen a meteoric rise in instant messaging, with apps like WhatsApp, Snapshat and Apple's iMessage now commonplace. But what's behind the success? According to research from number crunchers Deloitte, the answer is…horny teenagers.

Instant messaging apps use the internet to send and receive messages. It's much like texting, but more flexible and - more importantly - free, for the most part.

Deloitte has predicted that the number of instant messages sent in the UK will almost double this year. By the end of 2014, 300 billion messages will have been sent via instant messaging, compared to 160 million in 2013.

Deloitte believes the surge is largely being driven by teenagers, who use the technology for romance. Some teens, for example, send more than 270 messages a day, often containing nothing more than an emoticon, like a heart or a smiley face.

It's not really surprising to see teens leading the uptake of newer technology. A new report from
UK telecoms regulator Ofcom found that 14-15-year-olds are the most technologically switched on people. They communicate by phone call just 3% of the time, while 94% of the time they communicate using digital text-based methods - particularly social networks and instant messaging.

In comparison, 20% of adults' time is spent talking on the phone, and while they do use text-based communication, email's the most popular, accounting for a third of the time spent communicating - for kids email makes up just 3%.

Parents may be wary of their children using instant messaging, as it can easily be used to communicate without parental oversight. Those concerned can install a parental controls app on their phone, which can be used to restrict access to apps and location information.

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