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One in four teenagers use their cell phones to access the Internet, and for teens with smartphones, that number jumps to 50%. According to a recently released Pew Research Center study titled Teens and Technology 2013, only 15% of adults can say the same. Marketers could chalk that jump up to a rise in teen smartphone ownership; 37% of young people ages 12-17 owned a smartphone in 2012, up from 23% the year before. But the statistics don’t just stop there. The Pew study found that 23% of teens own a tablet (versus 25% of the adult population), a whopping 78% of teens own a mobile phone (“smart” or otherwise), and 80% of teens own their own computer. Needless to say, more teens are online than ever before.
The Pew study reminds marketers that marketing through technology is not a passing fad; we are reaching a tipping point, with mobile fast becoming the central leverage for integrated marketing. As Pew’s Mary Madden says in the report, “Your target audience may not be teenagers, but teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity, and the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population.”
A recent post from V3 notes the Pew data in itself “isn’t terribly surprising – after all, we [can and should] expect smartphone use and mobile Internet access to continue to increase as devices become more affordable and more widespread.” But it goes on to state that what’s truly important is the ways in which the resulting paradigm shift is impacting brands and businesses, as well as their marketing strategies. One platform working better than others: Tumblr. One study found teens and young adults use the micro-blogging site at rates higher than that of Facebook. No wonder brands as varied as American Express, Coca-Cola, Condé Nast, Disney, IBM, and Sesame Street are active there.
One major takeaway for my Vertical Marketing Network colleagues and me was the age and gender breakdown within the study. While teens ages 14-17 use mobile phones to access the Internet at a rate almost double of teens ages 12-13 (29% and 16%, respectively), girls ages 14-17 are going mobile at a rate considerably higher than their male counterparts (34% versus 24%). Not only that, but teenage girls are more likely to own tablets.
AdWeek ran a Q&A with fashion-turned-cultural icon Tavi Gevinson, a must-read for anyone interested in what said teenagers can do with those computers, desktop, handheld or otherwise. Five years ago, at age 11, Gevinson started a style blog called The Style Rookie, which quickly landed her in the front rows of fashion shows and guest writing for publications such as Harper’s Bazaar. Today, she runs an online magazine called Rookie from her parent’s home in Illinois, all while finishing high school. Lady Gaga called her the future of journalism. What do you think?