Survey: More Teens Accessing Internet via Smartphones

Smart phone use growing among teens (Source: Pew Internet Teens and Privacy Management Survey, July 26-September 30,  2012)

Smartphone use growing among teens (Source: Pew Internet Teens and Privacy Management Survey, July 26-September 30,
2012)

There was a time when I advised parents to put their computer in a central area of the home so they could keep their eye on their kids’ use. But increasingly kids are accessing the net on smartphones.

A Pew Internet & American Life survey found that one in four teens are “cell mostly” Internet users, accessing the net from their phones instead of from a computer. Nearly a quarter of teens (23%) have a tablet, which means that they can access the net from anywhere where there is a WiFi signal or almost anywhere if their tablet is equipped with a cellular modem.

The survey also found:

  • 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
  • 95% of teens use the internet
  • 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home. Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members
  • About three in four (74%) teens ages 12-17 say they access the internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at least occasionally

The filter between their ears is the only one you can rely on

Back when kids were web surfing on computers only, it made sense for some families to put parental controls on their computers to keep their kids away from inappropriate sites or to monitor their activity. But now that they’re going mobile, it’s a bit more challenging. While there are ways parents can control or monitor mobile devices, it’s getting easier than even for kids to get around such restrictions which is why the old adage  “the best filter is the one that runs between the kids’ ears,” makes more sense now than when I first used it back in 1997.  That’s the filter that kids take with them wherever they go and with whatever device they use and while even great kids may sometimes do things that parents aren’t thrilled with, their best protection is to understand how to take care of themselves.

Conversation is the best protection

Also, teens are increasingly using apps rather than websites and it’s very difficult for parents to keep up with the growing number of available apps. So, more than ever, talk with your kids about safe and appropriate use of technology. Ask them what they’re doing and how they’re protecting their privacy and reputation.  Get them to teach you about the latest cool apps they’re using.  But word of warning — things change rapidly so be prepared to have this conversation over and over again if only so you can try to keep up.

For more on the survey and parenting in the digital age, see Teens’ tech getting very mobile: New study from my ConnectSafely.org co-director, Anne Collier.

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