Social Networking

Research: Smartphones Driving Online Activity Among Teens

Ninety-two percent of teens say they go online daily, including 24 percent who say they're online "almost constantly," according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center.

The report, which defined teens as individuals aged 13-17, found that 56 percent of respondents said they go online several times a day and another 12 percent daily. Only 6 percent reported weekly use of the Internet and a meager 2 percent said they go online less often.

"Much of this frenzy of access is facilitated by mobile devices," according to Pew. "Nearly three-quarters of teens have or have access to a smartphone and 30 percent have a basic phone, while just 12 percent of teens 13 to 17 say they have no cell phone of any type."

At 85 percent, African-American teens were the most likely to report having a smartphone, with 71 percent of white and Hispanic teens reporting the same. More than nine out of 10, 91 percent, of all teens surveyed said they go online via mobile device at least occasionally and among those, 94 percent said they go online at least daily. Among teens who did not report accessing the Internet through a mobile device, only 68 percent said they go online daily or more often.

Other key findings of the report, "Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015: Smartphones Facilitate Shifts in Communication Landscape for Teens," include:

  • Facebook is the most widely used social media site, with 71 percent of survey respondents saying they use the site. Instragram came in second, at 52 percent, and Snapchat third, at 41 percent. Twitter and Google+ tied for the fourth place spot at 33 percent each;
  • 71 percent of teens reported they use more than one of the social media sites surveyors asked about, which included the top five, plus Vine and Tumblr;
  • Only 22 percent of survey respondents said they used one social networking site. Among those, Facebook was again most popular, at 66 percent. Google+ and Instagram were tied for second at 13 percent;
  • Boys, at 45 percent, were more likely than girls, at 36 percent, to say they use Facebook most often. Girls were more likely to report using Instagram, at 23 percent, than boys, 17 percent of whom said they visit the site;
  • Older teens, those aged 15-17, were more likely than their younger peers to cite Facebook, at 44 and 35 percent, respectively. The same held true for Snapchat and twitter, but younger teens were 8 points more likely to say they visit Instagram;
  • Teens from homes with income less than $50,000 per year were more likely to say they use Facebook the most, at 49 percent, while their peers from wealthier homes said the same only 37 percent of the time;
  • Most teens surveyed, 88 percent, said they have access to some kind of cell phone and among those, 90 percent said their phones could text. "A typical teen sends and receives 30 texts per day, according to information released by Pew; and
  • Messaging apps are also popular. 73 percent of teens surveyed said they have access to a smartphone, and among those 33 percent said they have messaging apps. African-American teens and Hispanics were most likely to report using such apps, at 47 and 46 percent, respectively, as compared to just 24 percent of white teens.

The only survey polled 1,060 teenagers and a parent or guardian. The poll was conducted in both English and Spanish. The full report is available at

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].