Teens and Technology

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A nationally representative phone survey of 802 parents and their 802 teens ages 12-17 conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project between July 26 and September 30, 2012. The findings were reported by Pew in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Use of technology among youth ages 12-17.


  • 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.
  • 95% of teens use the internet. (a percentage that has been consistent since 2006)
  • One in four teens (23%) have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
  • Nine in ten (93%) 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.

"the nature of teens’ internet use has transformed dramatically during that time — from stationary connections tied to desktops in the home to always-on connections that move with them throughout the day. 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. "

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

  • About three in four (74%) teens ages 12-17 say they access the internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at least occasionally.
  • One in four 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 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.

In overall internet use, youth ages 12-17 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. 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.

Three in four teens access the internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

About three in four (74%) teens ages 12-17 are “mobile internet users” who say they access the internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at least occasionally.1 By comparison, 55% of adults are mobile internet users.2 However, this gap is driven primarily by adults ages 65 and older, many of whom are not using the internet in any capacity, let alone on a mobile device. Adults under the age of 50, on the other hand, are just as likely as teens to be mobile internet users; 74% of adults ages 18-49 access the internet on a cell phone, tablet, or other mobile device.


  • teen gadget ownership and use