A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

How Americans Use Their Mobile Phones

by on December 26, 2012

A recently published study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that people are using cellular phones and smartphones for a variety of uses, from the functional (online banking and news gathering) to the social (picture sharing and social  media).   The report gathered data on how demographic groups are using phones and smartphones, while also comparing sexting behavior to that of two years ago.  The report can be found on the Pew Internet and American Life Project here.

Smartphone usage varies based on the group surveyed.  Younger adults (18-29) were more likely to partake in all types of smartphone behavior when compared to their older counterparts (30-49), though the gap varies considerably depending on the type of usage.  Finding deals and coupons and visiting government websites were nearly as likely for both groups, for example, but younger folks are far more likely to post pictures online.  Requesting information on the weather was the most common overall activity, and more than half of smartphone users reported the activities of social networking, looking up directions, gathering news, uploading photos, and playing games.  The study asked cellular and smartphone users whether they performed a number of tasks ever or daily while also recording their type of phone, age, gender, race/ethnicity, income, education level, and geographic location

The study also paid close attention to sexting activities, those that involved sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos or video.  The numbers have held steady as compared to two years ago, with 15% of participants receiving and 6% sending photographs and videos of themselves nude or nearly nude, while 3% forwarded content of others they knew personally.  Adults between the ages of 25 and 34 responded with the highest frequency of these behaviors, sending and receiving sexts at rates of 14 and 31%, respectively.  10% of people between the ages of 25 and 34 have forwarded sexts, as opposed to 4% or less for any other age group.  Other trends in sexting are that people over the age of 45 do not participate in sexting and smartphone owners are more than twice as likely to send sexts than owners of non-smartphones.

As smartphones and mobile phone users continue to look for, and expect to find, information designed for their mobile devices, many libraries are looking to increase cellular compatible services.  These services include catalogs that are customized for mobile devices, and mobile platforms for accessing electronic content available through libraries, like e-books and music downloads.  These offerings are just the beginning, though, as library workers and patrons will continue to look for ways to use these technologies in ways that continue to make public libraries accessible to all types of users.