Equity & Diversity

Smartphone Use Rising Fast Among Teens, Survey Finds

By Sean Cavanagh — March 13, 2013 1 min read
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The use of smartphones has jumped among teenagers over the past year, according to a newly relased national survey, which also shows that one in four of youths in that age group access the Internet mostly through their cellphones.

The results, released today by the Pew Research Center, offer one of the clearest indications to date of the extent to which many teenagers have abandoned desktop computers in favor of mobile devices.

Roughly three-quarters of youths ages 12-17 are mobile users of the Internet, who go online via cellphones, tablets, and other mobile devices at least some of the time, the Pew study says. Seventy-eight percent of teenagers now have a cell phone. And 37 percent of youths ages 12-17 have a smartphone, an increase from 23 percent in 2011, according to the study, “Teens and Technology, 2013"

The survey was based on a nationally representative phone survey of about 800 teenagers and 800 parents, conducted last year with a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points. Among the other findings:

• 95 percent of teens today use the Internet, a number that has remained roughly consistent since 2006;

• 23 percent of teenagers own a tablet computing device, while 25 percent of adults have one. Perhaps not surprisingly, with adults and teens, higher family education and income levels are directly linked to tablet ownership;

• The most likely cellphone Internet users are girls ages 14-17, 34 percent of whom fall in that category, compared with 24 percent of boys the same age;

• Roughly one-quarter of teens are cellphone-mostly Internet users, compared with just 15 percent of adults. Among teenage smartphone owners, a much larger portion, half of them, use cellphones primarily to access the Internet.

“In many ways, teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity,” Mary Madden, a senior researcher for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, said in a statement. “And the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population.”

Here’s a breakdown of trends in Internet use among teens and adults:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.