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The kids are online: Gen Z is poised to become the most connected generation—for now

The forecast: Gen Z is getting older and steadily moving toward becoming the most digitally connected generation. In 2024, US Gen Zers will surpass millennials in regular internet use, and they'll do the same with smartphone penetration in 2026.

Dive deeper:

  • Internet use and smartphone adoption among Gen Z in the US is practically ubiquitous. This means penetration rates don't reflect if Gen Z will get online so much as when individuals will be old enough to do so with regularity.
  • In 2024, when US Gen Z internet penetration will jump to 99.1%, Gen Zers will be between 12 and 27 years old. Millennials, who will be fully into adulthood (ages 28 to 43), will stagnate at 97.4% penetration.
  • Even the youngest Gen Zers will be teenagers by 2026, and penetration of those who own smartphones will reach 96.9% as younger kids who may be using tablets or borrowing smartphones mature.
  • Generation Alpha will adopt smartphones even earlier than Gen Z. And while 71% of parents with children under 12 are concerned about their kids spending too much time in front of screens, per a March 2020 Pew Research Center survey, smartphone penetration is not slowing down.

Looking ahead: By 2026, 99.6% of Gen Zers will be regular internet users. Meanwhile, as digital literacy increases and data plans become more affordable, the average age of digital connectivity will likely decrease in the coming years.