Teenagers and technology go pretty well together, if only because parents need someone to teach them how to use their gadgets. Young people have traditionally been early adopters of new technology, and today's teens are no exception.
A new study suggests that 37 percent of American teens own smartphones, compared to 23 percent in 2011: a staggering 60 percent increase. Furthermore, 25 percent of teens use this device as their primary means of accessing the Internet.
The Pew Research Center, a Harvard University organization, surveyed 802 American teens (ages 12-17) and their parents, collecting data on device use and demographics. Race, parental income and location all played a role in whether a teen owned a smartphone, but there was a consistent increase among all groups surveyed.
Ninety-five percent of all teens in the study have Internet access in one capacity or another (raising the question of what exactly the other 5 percent have been doing with their time), with 74 percent able to access the Web on handheld devices. This is roughly the same proportion as adults ages 18-49.
In one of the study's most significant findings, teen smartphone ownership did not vary much by income. While teens from more affluent families were more likely to own cell phones of any variety (whether smart or not), the proportion of smartphone owners was roughly the same for every group, regardless family income.
One in four teens uses his or her cell phone as a primary means of Internet access, but this number skyrockets to one in two among smartphone owners. Getting online using a desktop, laptop or game console is apparently now very passé among young consumers. [See also: Top 10 Reasons to Ditch Your Dumb Phone for a Smartphone ]
Old stereotypes hold true as well: Teenage girls depend more on their phones than do boys. Fifty-five percent of older teen girls (ages 14-17) used a smartphone as their primary Internet device, compared to less than half that number among their male counterparts in the same age group. Both genders, however, are equally likely to own and use smartphones.
Given how much these numbers have grown in the last two years, it's likely they'll continue increasing for the foreseeable future. Some hand wringers might bemoan the increasing dependence of young people on technology, but such worriers will likely change their tunes the next time they accidentally delete a favorite app from their home screen or set their phone's default language to Mandarin.
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