Contact Us
Tel: +44 (0)15395 65450

PRESS RELEASE: Rising Internet use fuels teen smartphone addiction

To receive research updates:
Simply register
your email

Intersperience reveals impact of ‘constant connection’ on under-18s

- 65% of teen mobile internet users admit to being “addicted” to their mobiles

- Teens would rather live without TV, Facebook and chocolate than their mobile

- Research shows loss of mobile would make users agitated, panicked and tearful

- 70% now use mobile internet daily, up from 58% in 2009

London, UK, May 14 2012 – The majority of British teenagers who use mobile internet admit to feeling “addicted” to their smartphones and would rather give up television, Facebook and chocolate than their phone, according to a new study by international consumer research specialist Intersperience.

The study found that mobile addiction is on the rise across all age groups in the UK with almost half (48%) of adults admitting to feeling addicted, compared to 65% of under-18s. The addiction is being fuelled by a communications boom which has seen the percentage of the UK population regularly using mobile internet jump to 38% from just 24% in 2009.

Both teenagers and adults named their mobiles as the number one object or activity they could not live without. Teenagers were more willing to give up Facebook, television and chocolate than their phone while adults would rather live without make-up, alcohol, cigarettes and coffee than their phone.

The findings are drawn from Intersperience’s ‘Internet on the Move’ project which researched mobile internet use across the UK, analysing the behaviour of 1,400 mobile users, including 400 aged between 12 and18. It is part of a series of research studies into the impact of the digital society on UK consumers.

Smartphone ownership is higher among under-18s (66%) than adults (58%) but the study found that both age groups have strong emotional connections to their phones. Respondents said they would be “agitated”, “lost” and “panic-stricken” and many said they would cry if they lost their mobile.

More teenagers (60%) than adults (48%) would feel agitated if they did not have their smartphone for a full day and teenagers were also more likely to describe themselves as sad, helpless and lonely without their phones.

The study also revealed growing pressure on parents to buy mobiles for children at an earlier age - under-18s think a child should get its first mobile at age 10 to 11 while parents think it should be age 12 to 13.

Intersperience Chief Executive Paul Hudson said: “The rise in smartphone addiction stems largely from a significant increase in the percentage of people regularly using them to access the internet. This is particularly noticeable among under-18s and it is having a marked effect on their behaviour and emotions.”

Hudson added: “Three key themes emerged from our research - an increasingly high emotional dependence on mobile internet; the pervasive presence of mobile internet across all aspects of life; and the impact of the communications boom on young teenagers. Most people regard 18-25 years olds as ‘Digital Natives’ but we found that 12-18 year olds are an even more ‘connected’ generation, with 61% of them social networking via mobile every day. As that generation grows up, Britain will be transformed into a nation of ‘connected consumers’.”


1. Emotional dependence

The study highlighted the extent to which increasing numbers of people from aged 12 to older adults make frequent daily use of mobile internet for a range of activities from social to educational, work-related or leisure. This has resulted in all ages experiencing a more intense emotional attachment to their smartphones.

Excerpt from research:

Q: Which of the following could you not live without? (multiple choice)

Responses: Under-18s Adults
Mobile 68% 46%
TV 57% 46%
Chocolate 41% 26%
Facebook 40% 16%
Games console 39% 9%
Make-up 29% 14% (sample skewed towards females)
MP3 player 29% 14%
Football 14% 11%
Coffee 7% 23%
Alcohol N/A 17% (adult only response)
Cigarettes N/A 16% (adult only response)


2. Communications boom

There has been a sharp rise in the volume of communication across all digital platforms, with mobile communication rising fastest. The communications boom involves all age groups but under-18s are in the vanguard, emerging as a distinct generation of consummate multi-channel communicators, surpassing even 18-25 year olds.

Key data:

- 50% of phone owners use mobile internet regularly, up from 37% in 2009

- 38% of entire UK population use mobile internet regularly, up from 24% in 2009

- 70% of mobile internet users use it daily, up from 58% in 2009

- 60% of 18-34s use mobile internet regularly

- 28% of 45-65s use mobile internet regularly

- 64% of under 18s use instant messenger via mobile every day while 37% of 18-24s do

- 61% of under-18s do social networking via mobile every day while 46% of 18-24s do


3. Increasingly pervasive nature of mobile internet

The repertoire of online tasks done on a mobile phone is catching up with those done on a computer but the approach remains different, with info delivered via mobile preferred in bite-sized chunks. This has led to increased expectations of mobile internet coverage and device performance and signs of rising consumer dissatisfaction with current performance.

Key facts:

- mobile used for short sharp bursts of activity

- browsing time for mobile internet 5-10 mins, compared to 2 hours plus on PC/laptop


Use of mobile internet increasingly similar to PC and laptop:

- equal use for social networking - PC (71%), mobile (72%)

- similar use for information search - PC (71%), mobile (68%)

- similar use for weather and travel updates - PC (51%), mobile (50%)


Key difference: greater use of PC (64%) for purchases than mobile (21%)


Rising consumer dissatisfaction with smartphone internet performance:

- 39% satisfied with connecting to internet via smartphone

- 84% satisfied with connecting to internet via iPad

- 88% satisfied with connecting to internet via PC or laptop




Media Contact:

Valerie Darroch T: + 44 (0)7970 737708 Email

About Internet on the Move:

Intersperience has conducted wide-ranging research into current use of mobile internet and associated behavioural trends in the UK. Researchers used qualitative and quantitative techniques to build a comprehensive picture of how people use mobile internet, participants mirrored the UK population in terms of social class. The research included responses from 1,400 mobile users, including 1,000 aged 18 to 64 and 400 under-18s. Insights were gleaned from forum comments, polls, brainstorming sessions, diary tasks and smartboards. The research team also conducted 20 in-home interviews with adept smartphone users who completed online diaries relating to their mood when doing different mobile tasks online. The findings outline how mobile internet is influencing behaviour in both a social and commercial context.

About Intersperience:

Intersperience is an international consumer research specialist with expertise in consumer behaviour, experience and attitudes. The team is headquartered in Cumbria and has more than 25 years experience in analysing consumer behaviour. It employs a range of interpretative models and frameworks including a proprietary online research platform. Intersperience has significant global expertise and an international research hub at Lancaster University which conducts research in more than 60 languages as well as associates in major global markets. Intersperience is an expert in how technology impacts on consumer behaviour and multi-channel customer service strategy. Clients include:The British Council; General Motors; Iceland; Samsung; ScottishPower; William Hill.

For more information:

T: 00 44 (0) 15395 65450 E:

Related Articles

Techno-savvy multi-tasking children demonstrate that the mobile age has arrived in the UK
More >>

Children and teens embrace internet as a constant companion and virtual global playground
More >>

Despite the increasing sophistication of retailers consumers remain reluctant to purchase with their smartphones
More >>

Study reveals how smartphones are changing the way we live and the far-reaching implications for business
More >>

The Now Culture gives rise to a new breed of ‘always-on’ challenging consumers who demand instant responses
More >>