Teens’ Access to Smartphones and Computers, by Demographic Group

June 8, 2018

Smartphone access is virtually ubiquitous among American teens ages 13-17, reports the Pew Research Center in a recent study [pdf]. Some 95% of teens surveyed said they either have or have access to a smartphone at home, a figure that remains highly consistent across demographic groups.

Indeed, smartphone access is consistent across teens regardless of race/ethnicity or age group. There does seem to slightly higher access among teens from higher-income (97%) than lower-income (93%) households, but the difference is quite minor, especially considering the survey’s margin of error for these groups. The same is true for the gender gap, in which girls (97%) slightly exceed boys (93%) in smartphone access.

Still, there are more variances when looking at access to cellphones other than smartphones. Some 29% of teens report access to such a device, but that figure rises among minority groups, lower-income households, and teens whose parents have lower levels of educational attainment.

There’s also a strong income disparity when it comes to desktop or laptop computer access. At 88% of teens overall, there isn’t a gap among genders or narrow age groups, but teens from higher-income households (96%) are much more likely than those from lower-income households (75%) to report access to a computer. (Higher-income households refer to those with $75k+ in annual income, while lower-income households refers to those with less than $30k in annual income.)

Meanwhile, the biggest gender gap in device access is reserved for gaming consoles. Fully 92% of teen boys say they have a console or access to one, while far fewer (75%) teen girls concur.

That same gender gap extends to video game popularity, too: 97% of teen boys play video games, per the report, compared to 83% of of teen girls.

For comparison’s sake, a recent study from Nielsen revealed that two-thirds of the US population ages 13 and up play video games, a figure that has risen from 58% in 2013.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey conducted using the NORC AmeriSpeak panel. The survey featured interviews with 1,058 parents who belong to the panel and have a teen ages 13 to 17, as well as interviews with 743 teens. Interviews were conducted by NORC online and by telephone from March 7 to April 10, 2018.


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