Adults have previously been the largest demographic of cell phone users, but teenagers are closing the gap, shows 2008 data collected by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
While a 2004 study found that 45 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 owned a cell phone, those numbers climbed to 63 percent in 2006 and 71 percent in early 2008. Of the adults surveyed, 65 percent owned a cell phone in 2004, which rose to 73 percent in 2006 and 77 percent in 2008. In an April 2009 survey of adults only, the number jumped again to 85 percent.
"We went back to our databanks in light of the intriguing findings about adult mobile phone use in two of our recent reports, and to help lay the ground work for our current project on youth and mobile phones. Among our questions: How does teen cell phone use stack up against their adoption of other technologies?" wrote Amanda Lenhart, a senior research specialist, in the report.
Lenhart found that while in 2008, 71 percent of teens owned a cell phone, 77 percent owned a gaming console, such an Xbox or PlayStation; 74 percent owned an iPod or MP3 player; and 55 percent owned a portable gaming device.
Sixty percent reported owning a desktop or laptop, but that number is less firm than the others, Lenhart explains, as while phones and other mobile devices feel very personal and so ownership is clear, it was less clear whether the teen or their parent "owned" the PC.
Older teens were also more likely to be mobile phone owners than their younger peers. Among 12 to 13 year olds, 52 percent reported owning a phone in 2008, while 72 percent of 14 year olds did and 84 percent of 17 year olds said they owned a phone.
What are they doing with these phones?
Of the girls, 55 percent reported chatting daily on their cell phones, while 47 percent of boys did the same. Text messaging was also a daily occurrence for 38 percent of teens in 2008 - up from 27 percent in 2006.
Twenty-nine percent of all teens said they spend time with friends - face to face! - daily, 32 percent use a landline daily, 26 percent send messages via social networks daily and 24 percent send an IM daily. While only 16 percent are daily emailers.
Pew is currently conducting a survey of teens and their parents and will be releasing the figures in early 2010.