Some 92% of 12-17 year-olds who own cell phones and 90% of teens’ parents backed the assertion that they like cell phones because they can "keep in touch no matter where I am." Again, this benefit was particularly appealing to girls (97%) and mothers (92%) compared with boys and fathers. Other Pew Internet research has shown that females are more likely than males to use – and appreciate – a host of communications tools and the cell phone is no exception.
The survey asked a further question of the younger respondents and found that teen girls who owned cell phones were more likely than boys to agree with the statement: "My cell phone gives me more freedom because I can stay in touch with my parents no matter where I am." Fully 94% of all teen cell owners agreed with this and the gender breakdown was notable – 97% of girls backed the statement vs. 92% of the boys. The oldest girls, those ages 14-17, were the most likely of all to see cell phones as technologies of freedom. Girls who texted were even more likely to salute the liberating aspects of cell ownership than those who are not texters.
In focus groups, teens spoke at length about the freedom and independence afforded by cell phones, in part because of the sense of safety and security mentioned above. As one high school girl explained, "I think [a cell phone] gives you more freedom in the sense that if you’re trying to get permission to go someplace, it helps to say, ‘I’ll have my phone, you can call me if you need to,’ and then it makes parents feel more secure. Which is how I think it gives you more freedom." As another high school girl described the benefit of having a cell phone, "It makes you feel older and independent, I think. I think that is what it comes down to."
Yet, despite the clear upside of connectivity with parents, some teens in the focus groups acknowledged that constant connectivity with parents can be a double-edged proposition. Several teens said that carrying a cell phone meant they "had no excuses" for not telling their parents where they were, and that it provided their parents an easy way to monitor and check up on their teens. As one high school boy put it, his mother uses the cell phone to "just to see where we at, to be in our business." Asked the worst thing about cell phones, one high school girl said emphatically, "That my parents can contact me at any hour of the day!"
In fact, some teens say their parents are reluctant to take away their phones as punishment because it would sever the connectivity parents have come to rely on. In the words of a high school boy "[My parents] always needed us, they always needed me to have it, more than I needed to have it. Like, my mom always needed to reach me, so she would never take away the phone as punishment, because it was more useful for me to have it than for her to take it away."