Study: Gen Z Smartphone Use 'Nearly Ubiquitous'

Gen Z Smartphone Use

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Hold the Phone (All Day)

As someone with two Gen-Zers at home, I know a thing or two about this generation and its smartphone use. Still, I was borderline shocked at some of the findings from a recent study conducted by Common Sense looking at teens' use of their cellphones. Here are some of the most eye-opening findings.

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Non-Stop Notifications

How many notifications do you think teenagers get on their phones each day? If you answered any number lower than 200, you're way off base. According to the report, "On a typical day, participants received a median of 237 notifications." Of those, however, users only interacted with around 46. Apps Snapchat and Discord sent teens the most notifications per day.

Cropped shot of an african-american young woman using smart phone at home. Smiling african american woman using smartphone at home, messaging or browsing social networks while relaxing on couch
Inside Creative House/istockphoto

Usage Per Day

The length of time Gen Z is using their phones each day varies greatly, with about 2% using it less than half an hour, and 9% using it for more than 10 hours. The study noted that a small number of teens use their phones a concerning 16+ hours in a day. The greatest majority — 16% — use it between three to four hours per day. 

TikTok application

TikTok Is (Duh) Popular

TikTok is used by 50% of the study's participants, who report being on it for a median of nearly two hours each day. One participant, a high school junior, noted that "the algorithm for TikTok is just way more addicting" than similar apps like Instagram or YouTube. The study's authors further noted that some teens spend "upwards of seven hours a day (on the app), often during school hours and overnight."

Related: Beware the TikTok 'Deinfluencer' Who's Still Shilling Stuff

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Gen Z Loves Social Media

On average, different age groups and genders use their phones for different reasons, but the three biggest categories are, unsurprisingly, social media, YouTube, and gaming. The older the participant, the more social media usage took over gaming. 

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Daily Smartphone Pickups

About a third of 11- and 12-year-olds pick up their phones between 25-50 times each day. And more than a quarter of kids in three age groups — 11-12, 13-15, and 16-17 — pick up their phones between 51-100 times each day. Of those who pick up their phones over 200 times each day, the 13- to 15-year-old age group represented the highest percentage at 8%.

Secretly using cell phone on a class!

Smartphones at School

Policies about using your smartphone at school are "inconsistent" and "aren't always enforced," per the study. Of the participants, a whopping 97% report using their phones at school. However, phone use duration while at school was relatively low — a median of 43 minutes per day. 

Related: Yes, Gen Z is Learning Financial Literacy (At Least in These States)

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Good Judgment Is Growing

If all of these stats are concerning to you, there is one bit of encouragment from the study. Researchers noted that "many young people reported they have grown savvier about their phone's attempts to draw them in, and they're taking steps to protect their digital wellbeing, like setting time limits and prioritizing certain types of notifications."  This is especially true as teens mature. Noted one 11th grader: "Your relationship with your phone changes. As you grow older, you realize like, hey, there's a time and a place, and right now isn't that place."

Up next: This Generation Isn't Totally Doomed: 7 Things Gen Z Is Actually Getting Right