Mobile Internet Users

Pew Research just released a brand new report last week, Teens and Technology 2013. The study found a growing number of teenagers to be smartphone owners, and a rise in the percentage of “cell mostly” internet users.

I like the report’s conclusions… but I can’t help wonder if their numbers are a little low.

Pew’s numbers always seem a little lower. I’m curious about their sampling. For example, this Teens and Technology 2013 study was based on a nationally representative phone survey of 802 parents and their 802 teens ages 12-17. This survey method led to their findings that 47% of cell phone owners have smartphones.

So why is that a red flag for me?

Back in September, Nielsen announced 58% of American teenaged mobile subscribers 13-17-years old now own smartphones.

That’s an 11% difference than the Pew numbers.

Nielsen’s study was based on their monthly survey of 20,000+ mobile subscribers.

It’s hard to know who is right. I ask parents how many of their kids have smartphones at every one of my parent workshops, and it never fails to draw far more than 50% of hands into the air. When I ask teenagers how many of their friends have smartphones vs. old school cells… the response is always a very dramatic, “Oh, like all of them!!!”

Paypal also just released a report about mobile trends, and they found:

  • More mobile transactions: 10% of PayPal transactions now occur on mobile devices 1. We processed $14 billion in mobile payments last year — 250% more than the $4 billion we facilitated in 20112.
  • Increased smartphone browsing: Nearly half of all American adults (45%) now own a smartphone. The majority of them (55%) go online using their phones, and 17% of cell phone owners do most of their web browsing on their cell phone.
  • Growing mobile communications: 4 in 10 emails are now being opened on mobile devices. That’s a 300% increase in the past two years. We saw with our own emails that up to 30% of people viewed them on mobile devices, compared to around 15% at the beginning of the year.

I guess we should look at where everyone agrees:

Everyone agrees that smartphone ownership is up, with about half of Americans owning them. Both Pew and Nielsen agree that a growing number of teens now own smartphones (somewhere between 50% and 60% percent, and both these reports are from teenagers surveyed by September 2012… so maybe more than 60% now???). Everyone also agrees that mobile internet use is rising. Pew reports one and four teens to be “mostly cell” internet users, Paypal shows a 300% increase in mobile email use, and Nielsen showed a 120% increase in mobile app use between 2011 and 2012, with all their users spending a third their time on social networks via their mobile device.

So what are the ramifications of all this?

This means more kids have Facebook, Google and Angry Birds in their pocket now (if only it would stay in their pocket while they’re driving). Mobile phones also opens the door to some really amazing ministry apps… and some really irresponsible apps. These little devices have huge potential… good and bad.

We can fight it… or we can use it. I recommend the latter. And it wouldn’t hurt to put a few realistic guardrails in place so you don’t regret ever purchasing it for your kids in the first place!

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
[Are you getting this daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it's real easy-go here.
This entry was posted in Entertainment Media, Smartphones/Cell Phones, Social Media, Youth Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mobile Internet Users

  1. Matt Mielke says:

    Thanks Jonathan for your insight. I’m amazed at how much information is on the internet today, yet so little of the important stuff actually makes it to the end user. I really enjoyed your talk when you were at Westbrook church in WI. I have referenced your findings to many people all with the same response – WOW!

    Keep up the good fight and Godpseed on your journey.

    Matt