Teens Not Online as Often as You Think

Teens spend far less time online than adults, on average, according to research by Jupiter Communications and Media Metrix, in contrast to the popular belief that kids control the computer. The research found that adults surpass teens both in terms of the number and length of sessions online.

The research found that teens spend an average of 303 minutes online per month — and depending on gender, teens gravitate to different sites. According to Media Metrix data, teens age 12 to 17 spend their 303 minutes online per month over 8 days, compared to young adults (age 18 to 34), who spend an average of 656 minutes over 13 days per months online. Adults (age 35 to 49) spend an average of 804 minutes over 15 days per month online. Jupiter analysts attribute the low Internet use by teens to their active schedules, with school and after-school activities; necessity of sharing online time with other family members; and the perception of the Internet largely as an entertainment and communication tool, not a productivity tool.

Teen boys and girls are represented online equally, but there are significant differences in the way each group uses the Internet, according to the research.

Teen boys: Teen girls:
  • Make surfing decisions based on their interest
  • Focus on technology, entertainment, and time diversions (e.g., games, building Web pages, downloading)
  • Surf more actively than girls, visit more sites
  • Look for familiar brands and community
  • Are goal-oriented in their surfing (e.g., read online periodicals, electronic cards, homework, communicating)
  • Have a high affinity for offline brands, both in media and shopping

Teenagers Online
All Teens
Minutes online/month 303
Days online/month 8
Research goods and
services online
Purchase online 15%
By Gender Boys Girls
Unique page views 301.2 271
Domains visited 47 32
Source: Jupiter Communications

“While the online teen population is expected to continue to increase, teens will still spend a limited amount of time online. Businesses that target this audience must evaluate their content and offer elements that these teens want in order to capture any part of that limited time,” said Anya Sacharow, Jupiter’s analyst for the kids and teen markets. “Girls follow offline brands online, but boys just want what they are looking for and don’t seem to care where it comes from. Strong brand building and alliances with online networks sway teen girls; teen boys are technophiles largely, and will look for any aspect of gaming.”

Kids and teens are also a market for e-commerce. They are expected to spend $4.9 billion via the Internet in 2005, but they are expected to spend an estimated $21.4 billion offline based on information that they have found on the Internet, according to Jupiter.

A Jupiter Consumer Survey asked more than 1,500 teens about their online shopping behavior; 15 percent of teens actually purchase online today. Teens said they buy online low-priced items or media goods, including CDs, albums, books, and videos, and clothing. However, an additional 49 percent of teens said they use the Internet to research goods and products –and purchase them offline–increasing the impact that the Internet has on those items as well as on higher priced items such as gaming consoles, PC peripherals and software that teens often research online.

“While the online teen population is expected to continue to increase, teens will still spend a limited number of dollars online,” Sacharow said. “To capture the greater offline influenced dollars, marketers must provide teens with information on their products and services that would impel them to purchase offline, and not solely concentrate on driving quick transactions online.”

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