The widespread use of smartphones helps users stay connected, but also raises privacy concerns. According to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online “almost constantly’.1
Smartphone apps let teens go online, watch videos, and game with friends, but teens most commonly use their phones to send and receive text messages. Additional Pew research notes that teens reserve voice calls for their closest friends and prefer to use text messages for newer friends and acquaintances. The research also suggests that the omnipresence of smartphones helps strengthen friendships, with 62% of smartphone-owning teens reporting that texting allows them to keep in closer contact with close friends. Additionally, having internet access via a smartphone may help teens make and maintain new friendships, with 57% reporting having made new friends online.2
Of course, near constant connectivity also poses a unique set of risks, for example, cyberbullying. Another risk that has gained national attention is sexting and sextortion. The ubiquity of cellphones has given rise to sexting as a way for teens to explore their sexuality, though in some cases these images are used against the sender as sexual blackmail.
Additionally, as most smartphones have GPS technology, users may unintentionally share their locations with the public. If a users’ photos have GPS location-tags or if a user “checks-in” to restaurants, airports, new cities, etc., friends and followers can see exactly where that person is or has been. Each smartphone brand or model may have a different way to turn off location-tracking services. Check the settings on your child’s phone, paying attention to which applications can access location data.