Smartphone adoption among American teenagers has increased substantially and mobile access to the Internet is pervasive, with a quarter of teens described as “cell-mostly” Internet users—those who mostly surf the Web using their phones, rather than other devices such as desktops or laptops, according to a Pew Research Center survey that explored technology use among 802 youths (aged 12 to 17) and their parents.
More than three-quarters (78 percent) of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47 percent) of them own smartphones, the survey revealed. That translates into 37 percent of all teens that have smartphones, up from just 23 percent in 2011. Additionally, 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, according to the survey.
“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,” Mary Madden, senior researcher for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and co-author of the report, said in a statement. “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.”
Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of teens have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population, while 95 percent of teens use the Internet, and 93 percent of teens have a computer or access to one at home.
“In overall Internet use, youth ages 12 to 17 who are living in lower-income and lower-education households are still somewhat less likely to use the Internet in any capacity—mobile or wired,” the report noted. “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.”
About three in four (74 percent) teens say they access the Internet on cell phones, tablets and other mobile devices, at least occasionally. The survey also found teens are far more likely than adults to be cell-mostly Internet users; just 15 percent of adults describe themselves as cell-mostly, compared with one quarter of teens. Among teen smartphone owners, that percentage doubles to half.
Older girls are especially likely to be cell-mostly Internet users, with 34 percent of girls aged 14 to 17 saying they mostly go online using their cell phones, compared with 24 percent of boys aged 14 to 17—a notable disparity since boys and girls are equally likely to be smartphone owners. Among older teen girls who are smartphone owners, 55 percent say they use the Internet mostly from their phones.