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Penetration of Smartphones, Tablets Grows Among US Teens

Email, social networking have seen declines in use since 2012

Both smartphone and tablet use saw a large leap among US teenagers ages 13 to 17 between 2012 and 2013, according to an October 2013 survey from the nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute (FOFSI) conducted by Hart Research Associates.

The poll found that smartphone penetration jumped to 64% in 2013, from 43% the previous year, among this age group. The climb in tablet use was just as dramatic, climbing to 67% in 2013 from 45% in 2012. The survey also found that smartphone penetration was highest among males ages 16 to 17, at 74%.

Teenagers were engaged in a wide variety of digital activities, although the most popular were related to various types of communications. Fully 87% of respondents said they had sent or received a text message. Next was mobile/online game playing (82%), followed by email (81%), social networking (81%), online instant messaging (71%) and using Instagram (42%). Interestingly, several activities saw significant drops between 2012 and 2013, including email use, instant messaging and Twitter use. Instagram use, meanwhile, climbed 12 percentage points between 2012 and 2013.

Are concerns over privacy leading teens to engage with social media less frequently? FOFSI found that more than three-quarters of those surveyed were very or somewhat concerned that their online activities could result in damage to their personal privacy.

At least some of these teenagers are taking steps to limit access to their personal information. Almost seven in 10 of respondents used an autolock on their digital devices—be it a PC, mobile phone or tablet. Two-thirds had set up their social media accounts to limit the display of their personal information to their friends only. And more than half used a variety of passwords as part of efforts to protect themselves.

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