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Teen smartphone ownership skyrockets in U.S.

A new Pew survey shows that 37 percent of all teenagers own a smartphone, and for many of them it's their main way to access the Internet.

Pew Research Center

The old stereotype that teens love using telephones still holds true even in the digital age.

Now, though, instead of landlines, almost all teenagers use cell phones. And, according to a new Pew Research Center report (PDF) released today, more and more U.S. adolescents own smartphones. Pew's survey looked at technology use in 802 teens from the ages 12 to 17 in July and September of 2012.

Seventy-eight percent of American teens owned a cell phone in 2012 and nearly half of that group had a smartphone. This means that overall 37 percent of all teenagers had a smartphone last year, which is up from just 23 percent in 2011.

And, teens aren't just using these phones to chat and text with friends; smartphones are also their central means for accessing the Internet. According to Pew, 25 percent of teens are "cell-mostly" Internet users. For comparison, only 15 percent of adults say they access the Internet mostly on their mobile devices.

"The nature of teens' Internet use has transformed dramatically -- from stationary connections tied to shared desktops in the home to always-on connections that move with them throughout the day," Pew senior researcher and co-author for the report Mary Madden said in a statement. "In many ways, teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity, and the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population."

A report by Nielsen in September had even higher numbers for teen smartphone use. It said that teens aged 13 to 17 are grabbing up smartphones at a surprisingly quick rate and that the majority of American teens, 58 percent, own a smartphone.