[Image courtesy of uknowkids]
Pew’s Internet and American Life Project is out with a new report on teens and technology and it’s full of insights about how tomorrow’s voters are using technology to access information.
From the report:
[A] nationally representative survey of 802 teens ages 12-17 and their parents … shows that:
- + 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of those own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
- + One in four teens (23%) have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
- + Nine in ten (93%) teens have a computer or have access to one at home.
- + Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members.
A significant finding is the degree to which many teens are “cell-mostly” internet users, meaning that they access the Web mostly via mobile devices:
- + About three in four (74%) teens ages 12-17 say they access the internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at least occasionally.
- + One in four teens are “cell-mostly” internet users — far more than the 15% of adults who are cell-mostly. Among teen smartphone owners, half are cell-mostly.
- + Older girls are especially likely to be cell-mostly internet users; 34% of teen girls ages 14-17 say they mostly go online using their cell phone, compared with 24% of teen boys ages 14-17. This is notable since boys and girls are equally likely to be smartphone owners.
- + Among older teen girls who are smartphone owners, 55% say they use the internet mostly from their phone.
Finally, while the “digital divide” on access to technology between different groups persists, its effects are mixed:
In overall internet use, youth ages 12-17 who are living in lower-income and lower-education households are still somewhat less likely to use the internet in any capacity — mobile or wired. However, those who fall into lower socioeconomic groups are just as likely and in some cases more likely than those living in higher income and more highly educated households to use their cell phone as a primary point of access. [emphasis added]
The implications for election officials are numerous, but the biggest takeaway for me is the notion that reaching young people – many of whom will be eligible to vote in the next Presidential election – requires an understanding and appreciation for mobile technology. Printing voting information, or simply posting it on a website, isn’t necessarily going to reach tomorrow’s voters unless it can be displayed on a smartphone, tablet or the new mid-range “phablets“.
Moreover, as more and more of today’s teens become voters, you are likely to see growing pressure to allow handheld devices to become instruments for voting – and not just voting information. We have already seen how public expectations about services like early voting have driven the field, despite capacity issues; it’s not hard to imagine similar pressure emerging from new voters who rely upon their mobile devices for many other aspects of daily life. The challenge will be reconciling those pressures with lingering concerns about privacy and security in the intersection between mobile tech and voting.
It’s not a question of if, however; Pew’s new report suggests that growing use of tech among young people means that eventually election officials are going to have to figure out how to put elections in the palms of voters’ hands.