Teens and Mobile Apps Privacy

August 22, 2013

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society and its Youth and Media Project are pleased to share a new report, the fifth in a series discussing issues of youth and privacy in collaboration with the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Main Findings

58% of teens have downloaded an “app” to their cell phone or tablet computer.

As part of an ongoing collaboration with the Pew Internet Project to study American teens’ technology use and privacy-related behaviors, this study focuses specifically on youth use of mobile software applications or “apps,” using both a survey and focus group interviews. The focus on apps in this study follows policy maker and advocates’ interest in the topic, as growing numbers of teens gain access to internet-enabled smartphones and tablet computers.

The nationally representative survey of youth and parents finds that 58% of all U.S. teens ages 12-17 have downloaded a software application or “app” to their cell phone or tablet computer. Among American teens, 78% of teens have a cell phone and 23% of teens have a tablet computer; 82% own at least one of these mobile devices. Within this subgroup of teens who own cell phones or tablets, 71% say they have downloaded an app to one of those devices. These figures are higher than similar measures of adult app downloading on mobile devices.

As noted in previous reports, older teens are more likely than younger teens to own cell phones, but teens of all ages are equally likely to own tablets. However, among teens who own at least one of these mobile devices, app downloading does not vary significantly by age; 66% of those ages 12-13 download apps, compared with 73% of those ages 14-17.

About the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit "fact tank" that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. The Project produces reports exploring the impact of the Internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life. The Project aims to be an authoritative source on the evolution of the Internet through surveys that examine how Americans use the Internet and how their activities affect their lives.

About the Berkman Center for Internet & Society

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is a research program founded to recognize, study, and engage the most difficult problems of the digital age and to share in their resolution in ways that advance the public interest. Founded in 1997, through a generous gift from Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman, the Center is home to an ever-growing community of faculty, fellows, staff, and affiliates. Fundamental to its work is the study of the relationship between digital technologies and democratic values, including civic participation, access to knowledge, and the free flow of information. More information can be found at http://cyber.harvard.edu.

Media contacts

Mary Madden: mmadden@pewinternet.org and 202-419-4515

Last updated

November 9, 2015