Teenagers Prefer Always-On Mobile Devices that Move with Them Throughout the Day

Teenagers Prefer Always-On Mobile Devices That Move with Them Throughout the Day

Most Teenagers Access the Internet Using Mobile Devices, But Web Content Not Always Optimized For Mobile Access

WASHINGTON, DC — Adoption of mobile devices by American teens has increased substantially and mobile access to the Internet is now pervasive, according to a new report called, Teens and Technology 2013. The report is part of a series by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard.

According to the report, one in four teens are “cell-mostly” Internet users, who say they mostly go online using their smartphone and not using other device such as a desktop or laptop computer. The report highlights several key trends that marketers should take note of to stay relevant to the teen demographic.

“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,” said 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.”

Pew Research Center’s national survey included 802 youths ages 12-17, and their parents, and explored technology use. The survey found that:

  • 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
  • 23% of teens have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
  • 95% of teens use the Internet.
  • 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home. Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members.

Mobile access to the Internet is common among American teens, and the cell phone has become an especially important access point for certain groups:

  • 74% teens ages 12-17 say they access the Internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at least occasionally.
  • 25% of teens are “cell-mostly” Internet users—far more than the 15% of adults who are cell-mostly. Among teen smartphone owners, half are cell-mostly.
  • Older girls are especially likely to be cell-mostly Internet users; 34% of teen girls ages 14-17 say that they mostly go online using their cell phone, compared with 24% of teen boys ages 14-17. This is notable since boys and girls are equally likely to be smartphone owners.
  • Among older teen girls who are smartphone owners, 55% say they use the Internet mostly from their 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,” said Amanda Lenhart, Senior Researcher and Director of Teens and Technology Initiatives for the Pew Research Center’s 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, the 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% of teens living in households earning less than $30,000 per year use the Internet, compared with 99% of teens living in households earning $75,000 or more per year.
  • 30% of teens living in households earning less than $30,000 per year are cell-mostly Internet users, compared with just 14% of those in households earning $50,000-$74,999 per year and 24% of those living in households earning $75,000 or more per year.

More Than 33 Million Americans Use Their Mobile Phone for Shopping-Related ActivitiesThe findings of the study are detailed in a new report called, “Teens and Technology 2013.”  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. The data are based on a nationally representative phone survey of 802 parents and their 802 teens ages 12-17, conducted between July 26 and September 30, 2012. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and on landline and cell phones. The margin of error for the full sample is ± 4.5 percentage points.

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