March 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM ET
Using the computer for Internet access is so 2004, at least for many teens: One in four now skip laptops and desktop computers for their phones, preferring to be "cell-mostly" Internet users. And among the teens lucky enough to own a smartphone, half use that device as their primary means of accessing the Internet.
The phone has become "the primary means by which 25 percent of those ages 12 to 17 access the Internet," says the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in a new report, "Teens and Technology 2013."
"Among teens who are mobile Internet users, that number rises to one in three (33 percent). Among teen smartphone owners, 50 percent say they use the Internet mostly via their cellphone."
Teen girls are "significantly more likely" than boys to use their phones for Internet access, Pew says, with 29 percent of girls saying they do so compared to 20 percent of boys.
"Older teen girls represent the leading edge of cell‐mostly Internet use; 34 percent of them say that most of their Internet use happens on their cell phone," the Pew report says, compared to 24 percent of boys in the same age range. "Among older teen girls who are smartphone owners, 55 percent say they use the Internet mostly from their phone, says Pew. "This is notable since boys and girls are equally likely to be smartphone owners."
Back in 2004, years before the launch of the iPhone and other modern-era smartphones, 45 percent of teens said they had a cellphone, while 75 percent had use of a laptop or desktop computer, Pew said. Jump to 2012: 78 percent have cellphones and 80 percent, computers.
Keeping track of what teens are doing while surfing on their smartphones — as opposed to a more easily visible computer at home — has become a parental challenge, for sure. There are some apps that can help; but there's also a need for parents to step in earlier to give their children that birds-and-the-bees-on-the-Internet talk, as NBC News' Helen A.S. Popkin recently wrote.
Pew's findings are based on a nationally representative phone survey of 802 parents and their 802 teens, ages 12‐17. The survey was done between July 26 and Sept. 30, 2012.
"The report shows that smartphone adoption among teens has increased substantially and mobile access to the Internet is pervasive," Pew researcher Mary Madden said in an emailed statement.
A drilldown of some of Pew's stats: