Majority of teens own smartphones: report

The majority of American teens own a smartphone, a big jump from just one year ago and a trend that has raised privacy and safety concerns by regulators and public interest groups.

Teens between age 13 and 17 are among the fastest adopters of smartphones, according to a survey released Monday by Nielsen. In July, 58 percent of teens surveyed said they owned a smartphone, up from 36 percent in July 2011.

Young adults between age 25 and 34 lead smartphone ownership: 74 percent said in July 2012 they owned smartphones, compared with 59 percent in July 2011.

“Among most age groups smartphones represent the majority of U.S. mobile subscribers, but American teens were the age group adopting smartphones the fastest,” said Nichole Henderson, a Nielsen analyst. ”As teens increase in their share of smartphone owners, mobile carriers and manufacturers should consider how to market to this growing group.”

Federal regulators are considering rewriting child privacy laws so that companies would have to ask a parent’s permission to collect personal information about children online and over mobile devices.

But there are no laws that protect teens, a group that is generally treated the same as adults. With six in 10 teens walking around with mobile computers in their pockets, they are able to access the Internet and download apps that can collect personal information to be used for targeted advertising and sold to data brokers.

Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) have proposed a bill that bans tracking of children online and requires user consent to collect information about teens. The bill would also give teens rights to erase digital records on Web sites.

Related:

Facebook mulls lowering age limit for subscribers

Two schools: high-tech versus no tech in education

Cecilia Kang is a senior technology correspondent for The Washington Post.

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