Today’s Teens and Their Tech

teen-girls-selfieLast week Pew Research’s Amanda Lenhart released their brand new report on Teens, Social Media and Technology, providing us with the newest data on how many kids are actually online, engaging in social media, and using mobile devices.

Any parent or adult who has connection with today’s teens already knows the answer to that question: all of them are!

Well… pretty close.

The report provides a pretty accurate breakdown of what tech teens own and have access to. Here’s a glimpse:

Of today’s American teens, 13-17-year-olds…

  • 73% have smartphones
  • 15% only have a basic mobile phone
  • African American teens are the most likely of any racial or ethnic group to have access to a smartphone, with 85% of them reporting smartphone ownership.
  • 87% have access to a desktop or laptop computer
  • 58% have access to a tablet
  • 81% have access to a game console such as Playstation, Xbox or Wii (91% of boys, 70% of girls) (and Nielsen just released their report on how many stream video and explore the internet from these systems)
  • 91% use the internet on a mobile device
  • 92% report going online daily
  • 56% going online just once a day
  • Just 11% use anonymous apps and sites like Yik Yak or Ask.FM

Do I buy into these numbers?

Short answer—yes.

As a guy who looks at these numbers a lot, the first number I noticed was the 73% of American teens 13-17 owning smartphones. I’m used to Nielson’s numbers, which most recently revealed 80% of 14-17-year-olds owning a smartphone (the numbers grow even bigger for Gen Y). So could that 7% difference be because Pew’s numbers include 13-year-olds? Maybe. But Pew’s numbers often tend to be a little lower than Nielsen’s. Either way, these numbers are close.

Some people also might be taken back when Pew Research claims Facebook is the number one social media platform teens use, with 71% of teens saying they use it. Most of us in contacts with teens have all heard them “trashtalk” Facebook as a stalking-ground for spying parents. We probably see Snapchat and Instagram as being more prominent in teens’ lives today. So is Pew Research wrong here?

I find that today’s teens indeed like Snapchat and Insta better than Facebook, but they haven’t totally disconnected with Facebook yet. Other surveys, such as last year’s Niche survey of the graduating class of 2014 actually uncovered similar findings to Pew Research: Facebook still reigned for the most daily users, but Instagram won as garnering the “most engaged users.” Apps like YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, Pandora and Netflix also ranked up there. (If you have trouble keeping up with all these apps and social media platforms, here’s a nice guide from Common Sense Media, or my post on Keeping Social Media Safe, or the nice workbook Doug Fields and I developed for parents, Should I Just Smash My Kid’s Phone?)

So if your kid says, “Mom, no one is on Facebook anymore.” Don’t argue; just smile and nod. Then, as you engage in frequent media conversations with your kids, observe for yourself. Don’t be surprised if teen “perception” isn’t the same as “reality”. (In fact, Stanford released an interesting study earlier this year revealing the same to be true about peer pressure.)

Regardless, these numbers about teens and their tech reveal that the overwhelming majority of young people today have easy access to mobile tech, the Internet and social media. The questions adults need to ask is… what are they gleaning from all this screen time? (a topic I talked about in detail in this recent TV interview– Part I in the series)

Hmmmmmmm.More-Than-Just-The-Talk-620

JONATHAN IS THE AUTHOR OF OVER A DOZEN BOOKS ABOUT CONNECTING WITH TEENAGERS LIKE THE BRAND NEW MORE THAN JUST THE TALK, AND SHOULD I JUST SMASH MY KID’S PHONE? BRING JONATHAN TO YOUR CITY TO TEACH A PARENTING WORKSHOP ON THIS SUBJECT!

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. 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.
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