Smartphone adoption among American teens has increased substantially in the past year, and one in four teens now connects to the internet primarily on mobile devices, according to a national technology-based report from the Pew Research Center.
“Teens and Technology 2013,” a new survey of 802 teens, ages 12–17, and their parents, also shows that 78 percent of teens now own a cell phone, 23 percent have a tablet computer (comparable to the adult population), 95 percent of all teens use the internet, and 93 percent have a computer or have access to one at home.
The report also notes that 71 percent of teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members.
“The nature of teens’ internet use has transformed dramatically—from stationary connections tied to shared desktops in the home to always-on connections that move with them throughout the day,” says Mary Madden, senior researcher for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and co-author of the report. “In many ways, teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity, and the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population.”
Other highlights of the report:
- 74 percent of teens access the internet on mobile devices at least occasionally.
- 25 percent are “cell-mostly” internet users—far more than the 15 percent of adults
- Older girls are especially likely to be cell-mostly internet users; 34 percent of girls ages 14–17 say that they mostly go online using their cell phone, compared with 24 percent of teen boys ages 14–17, although boys and girls are equally likely to be smartphone owners.
- Among older teen girls who are smartphone owners, 55 percent use the internet mostly from a phone.
“The shift to mobile internet use changes the ways teens access information and creates new challenges for parents who wish to monitor their children’s internet use,” says Amanda Lenhart, senior researcher and director of teens and technology initiatives for the Pew Internet Project.“Given bandwidth constraints and the fact that many websites are not yet optimized for mobile devices, teens who access content primarily on their cell phone may have to work harder to get important information. On the other hand, for parents who may wish to restrict access to their children’s exposure to certain kinds of content online, mobile devices can make it more difficult for parents to use the passive monitoring strategies they tell us they prefer, instead requiring more technical solutions.”
The vast majority of those ages 12–17 are internet users.
Still, teens who live in lower-income and lower-education households are still somewhat less likely to use the internet in any capacity—mobile or wired. However, those who fall into lower socioeconomic groups are just as likely and in some cases more likely than those living in higher income and more highly-educated households to use their cell phone as a primary point of access.
- 89 percent of teens living in households earning less than $30,000 per year use the internet, compared with 99 percent of teens living in households earning $75,000 or more per year.
- 30 percent of teens living in households earning less than $30,000 per year are cell-mostly internet users, compared with just 14 percent of those in households earning $50,000 to $74,999 per year and 24 percent of those living in households earning $75,000 or more per year.
The report is the second in a series of reports issued by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. The data are based on a nationally representative phone survey, conducted between July 26 and September 30, 2012. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and on landline and cell phones.