Teenagers have previously lagged behind adults in their ownership of cell phones, but several years of survey data collected by the Pew Internet & American Life Project show that those ages 12-17 are closing the gap in cell phone ownership. The Project first began surveying teenagers about their mobile phones in its 2004 Teens and Parents project when a survey showed that 45% of teens had a cell phone. Since that time, mobile phone use has climbed steadily among teens ages 12 to 17 – to 63% in fall of 2006 and then to 71% in early 2008.
In comparison, 77% of all adults (and 88% of parents) had a cell phone or other mobile device at a similar point in 2008. Cell phone ownership among adults has since risen to 85%, based on the results of our most recent tracking survey of adults conducted in April 2009. The Project is currently conducting a survey of teens and their parents and will be releasing the new figures in early 2010.
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? Our surveys show that while 71% of teens owned cell phones in 2008:
- 77% of teens own a game console like an Xbox or a PlayStation
- 74% of teens own an iPod or mp3 player
- 60% of teens “own” a desktop or laptop computer
- 55% of teens own a portable gaming device.
The computer ownership number has been stable since 2006, but it is somewhat complicated because it is sometimes hard for teens and their parents to sort out who owns what technology in a household. Cell phones and mp3 players are personal and heavily personalized devices and tend to be “owned” by one individual. Game-related devices are more likely to be conceived of by families as “owned” by the children in the household, while computers are more likely to be owned collectively by the family, or by the adults in the household.