Expert Commentary

Pew Internet: Teens and technology 2013

2013 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Harvard's Berkman Society for Internet & Society on levels of teen mobile and Internet use.

Texting teen (iStock)

How we communicate has changed rapidly over the last few years, and some of the greatest changes in behavior have been seen among teenagers, who are often “early adopters” of technologies. New applications and gadgets, though, can now quickly become commonplace and mainstream.

For example, a 2010 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Michigan’s Department of Communication Studies, “Teens and Mobile Phones,” focused on the rise of texting — a noteworthy trend at that time. The proportion of cell phone-owning teens who sent text messaging on a daily basis rose from slightly over 33% in early 2008 to more than 50% in September 2009; and the trendline has continued upward for teens who text. But it is a testament to the speed of technological change that, in a few short years, texting may already seem to many a more “traditional” form of communication, compared to newer social media-driven forms.

A 2013 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Harvard’s Berkman Society for Internet & Society surveyed more than 800 parents and 800 teens ages 12 to 17 in late 2012. The error margin is 4.5 percentage points.

The report’s findings include:

  • More than a third of American teens — 37% — are now estimated to have a smartphone, or Internet-enabled mobile device; this figure is up from 23% in 2011. Seventy-eight percent own a cell phone, a figure that is largely unchanged compared to 2011 survey data.
  • Twenty-three percent of teens have a tablet computing device, and 95% of teens say they use the Internet. Among parents whose households earn less than $30,000 annually, 89% report having Internet access (in some form); for parents in households earning more than $50,000 the rate of access to the Internet is 99%.
  • Some 74% of teens say they access the Internet through mobile devices at least occasionally; this level of mobile Internet usage is the same as it is among all adults under age 50.
  • “Although teen girls and boys are equally likely to have smartphones and are equally likely to use some kind of mobile access to the internet, girls are significantly more likely than boys to say they access the Internet mostly using their cell phone (29% vs. 20%). Older teen girls represent the leading edge of cell-mostly internet use; 34% of them say that most of their internet use happens on their cell phone. Among older teen girls who are smartphone owners, 55% say they use the Internet mostly from their phone.”

The Berkman Center’s Youth and Media project offers research papers on a variety of teen-related topics, including “From Credibility to Quality Information” and “Parents, Teens and Online Privacy.” For media members examining the implications for news practice and business models see the post titled “Mobile News: A Review and Model of Journalism in an Age of Mobile Media.”

Tags: communication, technology, youth, telecommunications, mobile tech

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