Cell Phone Ubiquity

Contrary to the protestations you’ve heard from your teens, not every child in the world has a cell phone. But frankly, it’s getting more like that as a function of time.

Cellular phones are extremely popular with teenagers and young adults. Recent survey data suggests that approximately 71 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 own a mobile phone, a number that is a significant increase from the 45 percent rate of ownership in the same age group in 2004. Predictably, the scale of ownership ticks upward with the age group. While about 52 percent of those aged 12 and 13 now own mobile phones, more than eight in ten 17-year-olds claim ownership of cell phones. Roughly two-thirds of those teens polled use their cell phones to talk to friends, about half of whom do so every day.3


Of course, for teens and young adults, making phone calls is probably the least important feature of their phone. The data-centric capabilities of cell phones have become the most essential communication aspect for this generation. While almost all phones (both feature phones and smartphones) support text messaging, smartphones and tablet computers represent a unique challenge because of the rich set of capabilities they support coupled with their inherent mobility.

Please refer to Chapter 8 for a specific and detailed discussion of texting and messaging. In this chapter we’ll mostly focus on other aspects of cell phones and tablet computers that have safety implications for ourselves and our families.

3 Don Corbett, “Let’s Talk about Sext: The Challenge of Finding the Right Legal Response to the Teenage Practice of ‘sexting,'” Journal of Internet Law 13, no. 6 (2009): 4.

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