When I read the summary of this new Pew Internet study, I chuckled to myself realizing that despite mobile phones being a cultural icon for teenagers today, it hasn't always been this way. Not many years ago, mobile phones were largely technology used by adults. How quickly things change, yes?
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.
Among teens, age is the most important variable in mobile phone ownership. Older teens are much more likely to own phones than younger teens, and the largest increase occurs at age 14, right at the transition between middle and high school. Among 12-13 year olds, 52% had a cell phone in 2008. Mobile phone ownership jumped to 72% at age 14 in that survey, and by the age of 17 more than eight in ten teens (84%) had their own cell phone.
Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project