Pew: Teen smartphone use soars in the US

Half of the teenage owners of smartphones access the Internet mainly through their phones

The number of teenagers in the U.S. using smartphones has risen sharply, with half of them accessing the Internet mainly through the device, according to a recent study.

78 percent of teens in the U.S. have a cellphone, a figure that has remained stable since 2011. But about 47 percent of those owned smartphones in 2012. That means that 37 percent of all teens had smartphones in 2012, up from 23 percent in 2011, the Pew Research Center said in a study released on Wednesday.

One in four teens, or 23 percent, have a tablet, a level comparable to that of the general adult population.

The study is based on a nationally representative phone survey between July 26 and Sept. 30 last year of 802 parents and their 802 teens aged 12 to 17. It was issued in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

The results largely confirm predictions of a growing market for smartphones and mobile Internet services such as social media and location-based services among American teens.

Teenagers nowadays have a variety of Internet access devices in their lives, but the cell phone has become the primary means by which 25 percent of those in the ages of 12 to 17 access the Internet. Among teenage smartphone owners, 50 percent said they use the Internet mostly through their cellphones, according to the study.

95 percent of teens are online, consistent with trends since 2006 when the figure was 93 percent. "Yet, 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," Pew Research said.

About 74 percent of the teens are now "mobile internet users" who said they access the Internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at least occasionally, comparable to 74 percent for adults under 50 years.

Youth in the age group of 12 to 17 who are living in lower-income and lower-education households are still less likely to use the Internet whether 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," Pew said.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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