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Teens Online

— The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
Updated on Feb 18, 2011

The past several years have seen an explosion in teenagers' use of the Internet. In response to the growing online presence of teens, a digital media culture has emerged that entertains, informs, and connects teens to one another. This "virtual mall" is a place where teens go to socialize with friends, listen to music, do their homework, window shop, and follow the latest trends.

Prevalence of Teens Online

  • Census Bureau data indicate that between 1998 and 2001, the proportion of teens (ages 14–17) using the Internet increased from 51% to 75%, and the proportion of "tweens" online (ages 10–13) increased from 39% to 65%.1
  • According to a survey conducted by the Pew Internet Project in Fall 2000, 73% of all teens ages 12–17 have used the Internet.2 A survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in Fall 2001 found that 95% of all teens ages 15–17 had ever gone online.3

How Teens Learn to Use the Internet

  • Most kids say they teach themselves how to use the Internet (40%), while others learn from their parents (30%) or friends (23%), and fewer from siblings (10%) or in a class (5%).4

Where Teens Access the Net

  • Census data from Fall 2001 indicate that half (51%) of kids ages 10–13 and 61% of those ages 14–17 have Internet access at home.5
  • Another survey of older teens (15–17) found an even higher percentage with online access at home: 83%, including 29% with access from their bedrooms.6
  • A survey of families with home Internet access indicates that 7 out of 10 (70%) locate the computer in an open space such as a family room, den, study, or living room, whereas almost 3 in 10 (27%) put the computer in a private area such as a bedroom.
  • According to U.S. Census data, 43% of teens 14–17 use the Internet both at home and school, 19% only at home, and 13% only at school.8

How Often Teens Go Online

  • Studies indicate that close to half of teens go online every day, with the vast majority going online at least once a week.9

How Much Time Teens Spend Online

  • Teens (12–17) with home Internet access typically spend almost as much time online each day (46 minutes) as reading books (49 minutes), playing video games (55 minutes) or talking on the telephone (60 minutes).10
  • Among older teens (15–17), a third use the Internet for 6 hours a week or more, 24% for 3–5 hours, 23% for 1–2 hours a week, and 20% for one hour a week or less.11

Factors Affecting Teen Online Access Family Income

  • Census data indicate that children 10–17 from the lowest income households (less than $45,000 a year) are only about half as likely as kids from the highest income bracket (more than $75,000 a year) to use the Internet (46% versus 88%) and are four times as likely to go online only at school (21% versus 5%).12
  • Comparing across income categories, another study found a signifi cant difference in online access between high- and low-income households with children ages 2–17: (24%) of low income families had home Internet access, compared to (58%) of middle-income families, and (79%) of high-income families.13
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