Why Do Teens Need Phones?

While a teenager might not need a cell phone to continue breathing and functioning physically, try convincing one of this fact. Even though a cell phone isn’t a basic need, the significance attached to a phone by many teenagers makes them significant priorities. A phone may hardly qualify as a physical need, but it can feel like an emotional need to many.

Teen Statistics

A survey of teenagers in 2012 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicates that 54 percent of teenagers own cell phones and 23 percent own smartphones 1. The remaining teenagers do not own a cell phone. Approximately half of the teenagers with cell phones have used them to connect to the Internet.

Teen Opinions

Approximately half of U.S. teens surveyed in a Harris Interactive survey indicate that their social life would suffer detrimental effects without access to and use of a cell phone, states the Marketing Charts website 2. Furthermore, about 57 percent of teenagers with cell phones indicate that the mobile device has had a positive effect on their lives. Teenagers often consider a cell phone to be a key component to social lives -- more important than shoes, jewelry and watches 2.


Safety is one of the most prevalent reasons cited by parents for providing teenagers with a cell phone, states the Focus on the Family website. In fact, 98 percent of parents surveyed by the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicated that the main reason for providing a teenager with a cell phone is to enable contact with the teenager when the teenager is not home 1. About 94 percent of parents and 93 percent of teenagers feel safer with the teenager having a cell phone, according to the Pew Internet survey 1.

Actual Needs

Although many teenagers use a cell phone for entertainment and social interaction, there may be some situations where teens should have cell phones on them at all times. A teenager with a chronic and life-threatening health issue, such as asthma or diabetes, may need to carry a cell phone for the ability to call for emergency help if necessary, states Dr. Claire McCarthy, primary care physician with the Boston Children’s Hospital pediatric health blog 4. In addition, a teenager in a situation where she must travel or walk alone to get to school might need a cell phone to stay connected to family.