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Let’s go surfing now, everybody’s surfing now … or we can wait until you check Instagram. A view of two teens during a recent getaway doing what teens do. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Our kids are growing up behind the screens of their smartphones. What they’re looking at and how often is the subject of the latest Pew Research Center survey on teens, social media and technology.

Thanks to nearly universal access to smartphones, nearly half of American teenagers surveyed say they use the internet “almost constantly,” according to Pew. The 45 percent figure is nearly double the 24 percent who were categorized in this way in the 2014-15 survey. For another 44 percent, internet access happens several times a day, thus, nine-in-10 teens are online at least multiple times per day.

(Pew Research Center Graphic)

These numbers are possible because of the ubiquity of smartphone access. Pew reports that 95 percent of teens can get their hands on such a device these days — a 22 percent surge from 2014-15. “Smartphone ownership is nearly universal among teens of different genders, races and ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds,” the report said.

The numbers change regarding access to a desktop computer or laptop, with 88 percent of teens reporting access to such a device at home, that access varies greatly by income level. In households with an annual income of $75,000 or more per year, 96 percent of teens say they have access to a computer at home. When the household incomes drops below $30,000 a year, teen computer access falls to 75 percent.

(Pew Research Center Graphic)

So what’s so great about being online? Surely teens are no different than adults when it comes to a thirst for information or the desire to connect with their friends and family on social media.

And among the social powerhouses, the landscape has changed dramatically from the results of the Center’s 2014-2015 survey of teen social media use, when 71 percent of teens reported being Facebook users.

In 2018, 51 percent of teens say they use Facebook, and three other platforms have taken hold of the sizable majority of users — YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.

(Pew Research Center Graphic)

As to how teens view the effect of these platforms on their lives, Pew reports that there is no clear consensus.

Forty-five percent of teens believe social media has a neither positive nor negative effect on people their age; 31 percent say social media has had a mostly positive impact; and 24 percent describe its effect as mostly negative.

Ease of connectivity and interaction with others are the chief positives when teens describe in their own words what they gain from social media.

(Pew Research Center Graphic)

The Pew survey of U.S. teens was conducted March 7-April 10. Throughout the report, “teens” refers to those ages 13 to 17. Check out the rest of the report for insights into gaming as well as Pew’s methodology.

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