What is the significance of your PFP

The importance of the smartphone in the world of young people

Equipment and use of cell phones / smartphones among young people

While the use of mobile phones was still an exception for young people in 1998, twelve years later almost all young people had a mobile phone. Girls and older adolescents were better equipped with cell phones than boys and adolescents in younger and middle age groups. Young people with less formal education were just as well equipped with cell phones as young people with higher formal education. [1]

Smartphones, the latest generation of cell phones with additional functions and applications, also found their way into the world of young people very quickly.

Figure 1 shows how young people are equipped with smartphones by gender, age and education.

Fig. 1: Equipment of young people with smartphones according to gender, age and education [1] 2010–2014 (figures in percent)

Source: own compilation based on the JIM studies from 2010 to 2014

While only 14% of young people had a smartphone in 2010, it was 47% in 2012 and even 88% in 2014. [2] The mobile medium of the smartphone spread very quickly among young people and replaced conventional cell phones. Young people are among so-called early adapters and innovators, i.e. they are those who are open to innovations such as smartphones, have a great interest in the use of new technologies and constantly observe the market in order to be the first to buy new products. [3] A look at gender and education show that there are virtually no gender- and educational-specific differences in the equipment with the smartphone. Rather, the age differences are important, because the older the young people are, the better equipped they are with a smartphone. This can be attributed to the fact that the communication radius of adolescents increases with increasing age.

The technical equipment of the smartphone allows a variety of different uses. Almost all smartphones have a camera that can be used to take pictures, Bluetooth that can be used to exchange files, an integrated MP3 player and radio that can be used to listen to music. In addition, it is possible with the smartphone to go online, watch TV or use it as a game console.

It is a "multimedia device" that combines many different devices and functionalities and therefore not only serves for communication, but also for information and entertainment.

Smartphone as a personal medium

Young people attach great importance to their smartphone, which is not only expressed in regular use, but also in the fact that it has a permanent place in their living environment. The smartphone is the personal medium of adolescents, which they always carry with them, carry it close to their body, never switch it off so as not to miss important encounters or news, and on which they archive their private data.

In addition, adolescents can use smartphones to satisfy their social needs (e.g. for communication), cognitive needs (e.g. for information) and affective needs (e.g. for entertainment). The individual accessories, protective cover, ring tones or logos on the display, which can carry a communicative message, reflect the individuality and interests of a person and can stimulate interpersonal communication.

Smartphone in the circle of friends

In the circle of friends, the smartphone is important for interaction, communication and entertainment with people of the same age. It enables permanent communication and is used to plan and organize common leisure activities. With the smartphone, adolescents can cultivate the relationship with their friends much more intensively than if this were possible without a smartphone. On the contrary, communication with friends improves because, unlike in the past, you can no longer be together every day, but you are still in contact with each other. At the same time, the smartphone always has to do with inclusion for the young people, because it conveys the security of being embedded in a circle of friends and being able to maintain personal contacts. It is a necessary medium for avoiding social exclusion.

Smartphone in school

Each school regulates the use of the smartphone in school itself. In many secondary schools there is an official smartphone ban, i.e. the smartphone may not be used in the school building. Young people from secondary school are allowed to use their smartphones during the school break and in the school yard. In the yard and during breaks, it is mainly used for entertainment because it allows them to listen to music, watch videos and play smartphone games.

The situation is different at high schools. The teachers at the grammar school integrate smartphones into the classroom, e.g. B. painting and listening to music in art classes and thus contribute to the expansion of the personal and methodological skills of young people. In addition, high school students use their smartphones at school to search for specific information. For example, look up terms on the Internet, translate foreign words or have theories explained to you.

In general, teachers can use smartphones in class to make learning more interactive, to motivate students and to contribute to the promotion of skills. However, you should always make sure that students do not use their smartphones to pass the time or for distraction in class.

Smartphone in the family

In the family, the smartphone helps expand communication options. Communication between parents and young people takes place in different ways, whereby calls are made very frequently and messaging services are used somewhat less often because not all parents have or can use this. The smartphone helps the parents to get in touch with the young people and the young people to ask their parents or to notify them in emergency situations. With the help of the smartphone, parents want to monitor from a distance where the young people are and what they are doing. In contrast, the young people feel more controlled by the calls from their parents and are more likely to want to evade control. The smartphone is also used to organize and coordinate everyday family activities.

The smartphone is only an issue in the family if it causes conflicts or if parents have questions about the smartphone that the young people can usually answer. It is advisable to arrange a smartphone-free day a week with the family and to spend time together without digital media.

Problems with the smartphone

The diverse technical possibilities of the smartphone open up many different potentials, but can also lead to problems. With the smartphone, pictures can be created, videos recorded and sent to other users or posted on the Internet in a matter of seconds. Overall, this results in the following problem areas: snuff videos, happy slapping, cyberbullying and sexting. [4]

With the smartphone, violent or pornographic images and videos can be sent directly to another smartphone or distributed online (snuff videos). The young people surveyed in the JIM study stated that they had heard of violent or pornographic content being sent (2011: 80%, 2014: 78%) and also knew that friends or acquaintances had received such videos (2011 : 21%, 2014: 29%) and received such content themselves (2011: 4%, 2014: 14%).

Staged and / or actual fights can be filmed with the smartphone and then videos can be sent to others (happy slapping). In many cases it is actual brawls rather than reenactments, with boys in middle and older age groups with lower formal education being more affected.

Offensive pictures, videos or text messages about a person that are stored on the smartphone or forwarded to others can form the basis for bullying activities (cyberbullying). The adolescents surveyed stated that offensive pictures or texts were sent about themselves with their smartphones (2010-2012: 3%) and that they had difficulties because of stored or sent content on their smartphones (2010-2012: 3%). Problems with friends, family or school can arise due to problematic content on the smartphone.

In the event of a relationship failure, personal content such as B. erotic photos, videos or text messages are forwarded to others or posted on the Internet (sexting). More than one in four (2014: 27%) said they had heard of sending personal content. Obviously, very personal content is made accessible to a larger group of people.

Some young people fear that constant communication, the exchange of information via smartphone and the associated reduction in personal contact could lead to the isolation of society.

If the youngsters did not have a smartphone, they would replace it with other means of communication and would then have much more time for other activities. At the same time, they would feel excluded from the group of their peers, as they would no longer be informed about the joint activities. It would therefore be better if no one had a smartphone so that the young people could establish contact using other means of communication, have more personal contact with one another and more free time for joint activities.

Snuff videos, happy slapping, cyberbullying and sexting represent a major challenge for media educators. Parents should also take the time to find out about the potentials and risks of digital media or to seek advice from qualified specialists. It is also important that parents talk to their children more often about how to use the smartphone and about activities on the smartphone and teach them how to use the medium correctly.

Importance of the smartphone in the living environment of young people

The smartphone is of central importance in the world of young people, because it enables integration in the group and social interaction in the group, communication and entertainment with friends, helps in emergency situations and with the organization and coordination of activities, supports parents and young people in family life and satisfies the needs of young people.

Change in the living environment through the use of the smartphone

Overall, it can be assumed that the living environment of young people has changed as a result of regular smartphone use. The smartphone ensures a change in media usage by listening to music on the go, by creating pictures and videos yourself and sending them directly to others, as well as by being permanently mobile. Furthermore, the smartphone changes the rhythm of life, because you get the latest news and information from home and abroad faster and can react to it more quickly. It also ensures a change in communication behavior. On the one hand, communication with friends has become much more intense because, unlike in the past, you can no longer be together every day, but you are still in contact with each other via smartphone. On the other hand, friendships can be maintained over temporal and spatial distances and friends can directly participate in their own everyday life. In addition, appointments often take place via messenger, whereby the binding nature of appointments decreases significantly because they can be easily canceled or re-arranged at any time. All of this points to a change in the cultivation of social relationships and social exchange.

Rather, the smartphone is changing the status of other (media) devices, so that one could claim that the use of the smartphone has a negative impact on other technical devices. Is the smartphone replacing the television? And what about the stationary computer? It is already clear that young people use similar functions and applications on their smartphones as they do on their stationary computer at home. And what about the alarm clock? Many young people today use the alarm clock on their smartphone. The smartphone is a multifunctional integration medium that makes the use of individual (media) devices superfluous. The further technical development of the smartphone will ensure that it will also assert itself in the future on the mobile communications market and among young people.


[1] see MPFS (1998), p. 56.

see MPFS (2010), p. 54.

[2] see MPFS (2010), p. 54.

see MPFS (2012), p. 52.

see MPFS (2014), p. 45.

[3] see Schmitt (2008), p. 39ff.

[4] see MPFS (2010), p. 57ff.

See MPFS (2011), pp. 60ff.

See MPFS (2012), p. 56f.

See MPFS (2013), p. 56.

See MPFS (2014), p. 52ff.


  • Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (MPFS) (Ed.). (1998). JIM` 98. Youth, Information, (Multi-) Media. Basic study of the media handling of 12 to 19 year olds in Germany. Baden-Baden.
  • Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (MPFS) (Ed.). (2010). JIM study 2010. Youth, Information, (Multi-) Media. Basic study of media use by 12 to 19 year olds. Stuttgart.
  • Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (MPFS) (Ed.). (2011). JIM study 2011. Youth, Information, (Multi-) Media. Basic study of media use by 12 to 19 year olds. Stuttgart.
  • Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (MPFS) (Ed.). (2012). JIM study 2012. Youth, Information, (Multi-) Media. Basic study of media use by 12 to 19 year olds. Stuttgart.
  • Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (MPFS) (Ed.). (2013). JIM study 2013. Youth, Information, (Multi-) Media. Basic study of media use by 12 to 19 year olds. Stuttgart.
  • Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (MPFS) (Ed.). (2014). JIM study 2014. Youth, Information, (Multi-) Media. Basic study of media use by 12 to 19 year olds. Stuttgart.
  • Neimanova, Elvira (2015). Media handling of young people in Germany. A qualitative study on the importance of the smartphone in the world of young people. Unpublished master's thesis, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf.
  • Schmitt, Kathrin (2008). New media, new language. What the hell is gruscheln? Marburg: Tectum Verlag.

Related Links

Media educational advice centers and materials for children, young people, parents, educators, teachers and schools:


Elvira Neimanova, social scientist (M.A.)



discontinued on August 01, 2019