Teens Online (page 2)

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

Race and Ethnicity

  • According to U.S. Census data, about half of all Black and Hispanic teens do not use the Internet, compared to just one in
    five White or Asian American/Pacifi c Islander youths.14

Online Teen Media

  • According to Nielsen Net/Ratings, commercial Web sites specifi cally designed for teens are the most popular places for youths ages 12–17 to visit when they go online from home.15
  • A survey of the top teen commercial Web sites conducted by the Center for Media Education (CME) identified several popular themes: music (68%), fi lm (54%), relationships (52%), advice (49%), and fashion (43%).16
  • The CME survey also identifi ed an alternative teen culture existing online. Although small in comparison to the commercial online culture, these "youth civic media" Web sites are devoted to cultivating self-expression and encouraging volunteerism and civic participation.17

Popular Online Activities Schoolwork

  • The Internet is a primary research tool for teens. Census data indicates that 85% of older teens 14–17 and 77% of tweens 10–13 go online to do schoolwork.18 Among those teens who are online, 94% use the Internet for school research and 34% have downloaded a study aid.19
  • The Internet is increasingly replacing the library as a primary research tool for doing major school projects. Online teens are three times more likely to rely mostly on Internet sources than library sources for their research (71% versus 24%).20

E-Mail and Instant Messaging

  • E-mail is the most popular online activity for teens and its popularity increases as kids get older. Reports indicate that upwards of 90% of teens and 64% of tweens use e-mail.21
  • Approximately 74% of online teens use instant messaging (IM).22
  • Some online teens still prefer the telephone to communicate with friends, while others are replacing the telephone with the Internet. One study found that a majority (71%) of online teens 12–17 continue to use the telephone more often than the Web to contact friends.23
  • More than half (56%) of online teens 12–17 have more than one e-mail address and/or screen name.24

Health Information

  • One survey of online 12 to 17-year-olds found that one in four (26%) say they have gone online to look for "diet, health, or fi tness" information.25
  • Another study of online teens 15–17 asked whether respondents had ever gone online to look for information on a series of youth-related health issues and found that three-quarters (76%) had researched one or more of those topics, including HIV/AIDS (31%), drug or alcohol abuse (25%), sexually transmitted diseases (24%), smoking (23%), pregnancy or birth control (21%), and depression or mental illness (18%).26
  • Among those ages 15–17 who have looked for health information on the Web, more than half (53%) say they have had conversations with a parent or other adult about what they found online.27
  • Four in ten teen online health seekers (41%) say they have changed their behavior because of health information they found online.28

Popular Online Activities

Online Youth, ages 15–17, Fall 2001

94% send e-mail 94% research schoolwork
85% get info on movies, music, or TV
81% play games
80% download music
78% get news
71% participate in chat room
50% check sports scores
36% buy something

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation Generation


  • While visiting a Web site, teens are often asked about their habits and interests, as well as those of their parents. More than a third (39%) of teens 13–17 say they have given out information about themselves and their parents, including their allowance, names of their parents' favorite stores, and how their parents spend their weekends.29
  • Teens are much more likely to research a product online (66%) than purchase one (31%).30

Pornography and Internet Filters

  • Given that adult sex sites often appear as spam in e-mails, teens and children are at increased risk of exposure to sexually explicit material when they go online. One study found that 7 in 10 (70%) teens ages 15–17 say they have accidentally come across pornography on the Internet, including 23% who say this happens "very" or "somewhat" often.31
  • Approximately 1 in 7 (15%) teens admit to lying about their age to access a Web site. Teen boys are more likely to do this than girls (19% versus 11%), especially boys ages 15–17 (25%).32
  • More than three out of four (76%) teens 15–17 with Internet access at school say there are filters designed to prevent access to adult content on the computers they use at school.33
  • A third (33%) of those 15–17 with Internet access at home say there is some kind of fi ltering or blocking product on their home computer.34
  • Among teens 15–17 who have sought health information online, 46% say they have been blocked from a non-pornographic site.35
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