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As the 18-24-year-old demographic in the United States expands faster than any other young age group, so does its viewing and purchasing power. According to Nielsen, today’s 17-year-olds will play a significant role in the young adult segment of the future when it comes to advertising.

“Given their changing lifestyles, the resulting dynamic nature of teens affects their device ownership and usage,” said Peter Katsingris, vice president of industry insights. “As teens’ situations change and they leave the home or become more independent adults, they’ll likely go from using shared family devices to carrying personal devices with them, such as smartphones or laptops. As platforms become more pervasive, increased access and connectivity will surely affect the consumption behaviours of both teens and young adults in years to come.”

Though young adults view most content on television, they are increasing their video watching on other devices. According to Nielsen’s Fourth-Quarter 2012 Cross-Platform Report, all consumers under the age of 34 increased their video consumption via mobile and the Internet from Q4 2011 to Q4 2012.

And, while everyone under 34 is spending less time in front of the TV, viewing preferences aren’t consistent across the 12-17, 18-24 and 25-34-year-old groups. For example, teens like to watch on mobile more than anyone else. In fact, they watched 18% more video on their mobile phones than persons 18-24 and 46% more than persons 25-34, in Q4 2012. While teens are watching more content on mobile devices, they watch less video online than young adults. In fact, persons 18-24 spent almost three times more time watching video on the Internet than teens 12-17 in Q4 2012.

When it comes to purchasing power, Nielsen said that in 2012, 29% of US teens lived in high income homes ($100,000+), while only 25% of young adults lived in households within this same income bracket. There were also more teen households with middle incomes ($30,000-$100,000) than those of young adults. Finally, fewer teens lived in lower income homes ($30,000) than their slightly older counterparts.

Within teen households, smartphones and tablets are growing faster than any other device. From Q4 2011 to Q4 2012, smartphone penetration increased by 45% among teens, 32% among adults 18-24 and 22% among adults 25-34.

Laptop penetration increases as teens age into young adulthood, but begins to decline when young adults enter their late 20s. Laptop penetration is highest among young adults, but all three age groups (12-17, 18-24, 25-34) have increased their laptop ownership over the past year.

Research from the measurement firm also shows that among the 12-17, 18-24 and 25-34 demographic groups, all are almost identically multicultural, with 42% of each made up of Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Which makes sense — US Census data shows that African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics will generate the vast majority of the US population growth over the next few decades.

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