Majority of growth in teen cell phone ownership is among younger teenagers.
Some 75% of American teens ages 12-17 have a cell phone. Since 2004, age has consistently been one of the most important factors in predicting cell phone use. Younger teens, particularly 12 year olds, are less likely than other teens to have a cell phone.
As of September 2009, 58% of 12 year olds have a cell phone, much lower than the 73% of 13 year olds and the 83% of 17 year olds who own a mobile device. Much of the recent overall growth in cell phone ownership among teens has been driven by uptake among the youngest teens. In 2004, just 18% of 12 year olds had a cell phone of their own. In the same 2004 survey, 64% of 17 year olds had a phone.
Cell phones are nearly ubiquitous in the lives of teens today, with ownership cutting across demographic groups. Beyond age, there are few differences in cell phone ownership between groups of teens. Boys and girls are just as likely to have a phone, though they do not always use it in the same way. There are no differences by race or ethnicity in phone ownership by teens. Socioeconomic status is one area where cell phone ownership rates vary, with teens from lower income families less likely to own a mobile phone. More than half (59%) of teens in households earning less than $30,000 annually have a cell phone, while more than three quarters of teens from wealthier families own one.
By way of comparison, as of December 2009, 83 percent of adults owned a cell phone (or Blackberry, iPhone or other device that is also a cell phone). This is an 18 percentage point increase since Pew Internet began tracking cell ownership in November of 2004; at that time, roughly two-thirds of adults (65%) owned a cell phone.
Adults younger than age 30 are more likely than those age 30 and older to own a cell phone—93% of young adults own cell phones compared with 80% of their older counterparts. Cell ownership drops off after age 50: 82% of those ages 50-64 own a cell phone, and 57% of those 65 and older own one.
Among all adults, cell phone ownership increases with educational attainment and income, and men are more likely than women (86% v. 79%) to own cell phones. As we see in the teen population, there are no racial or ethnic differences in cell phone ownership among adults.