The report found the Internet is a “central and indispensable element” of the lives of American teenagers and young adults. 93 percent of teens between 12 and 17 went online, a number stable for three years. Nearly two-thirds of teen internet users go online every day. Families with teenage children are also most like to have a broadband connection (76 percent and up 5 points since 2006). It will surprise no one that the older you get, the less likely you are to be connected to the net. 74 percent of adults use the internet. That number is skewed because younger adults (18-29) go online at a rate equal to that of teens (at 93 percent).81 percent of adults aged 30-49 are online while just 38 percent (but still rising) of those over 65 are hooked up.
Use of gadgets is on the rise as the Internet moves away from the desktop and onto mobile and wireless platforms. Again the growth is skewed towards the young. In September 2009, Pew asked adults about gadgets: mobile phones, laptops and desktops, mp3 players, gaming devices and ebook readers. On average, adults owned just under three gadgets. Young adults of age 18-29 averaged nearly four gadgets while adults ages 30 to 64 average three gadgets. Adults 65 and older on average owned roughly 1.5 gadgets.
While the desktop or laptop remains the dominant online method, newer ways of connecting are making headway. More than a quarter of teen mobile phone users use their cell phone to go online. A similar number of teens with a game console (PS3, Xbox or Wii) use it to go online. One in five owners of portable gaming devices use it for Internet access. White adults are less likely than African Americans and Hispanics to use the internet wirelessly. African Americans are the most active users of the mobile internet, and their use is growing at a faster pace than mobile internet use among whites or Hispanics.
Teens are avid users of social networks. Three quarters of online American teens ages 12 to 17 used an online social network website, a statistic that has been growing at 7 percent each year since 2006. Teenagers are also more likely to use it as they get older. While more than four in five online teens aged 14-17 use online social networks, just a bit more than half of online teens aged 12-13 say they use the sites. Pew says this may be due to age restrictions on social networking sites that request 12-year-olds refrain from registering or posting profiles, but do not actively prevent it. The other notable statistic is differences in gender are evening out ending the previous dominance of girls on social networks.
Use of social networks stays constant in the 18-29 age group but then drops off rapidly for those over 40. Adults are also more likely to have profiles on multiple sites. Among adult profile owners, Facebook is currently the social network of choice; 73 percent of adults now maintain a profile on Facebook, 48 percent are on MySpace and 14 percent use LinkedIn. Analysis by education and household income show support for Facebook and LinkedIn rises with both factors validating Danah Boyd’s research into the subject.
The news is not so good for Twitter. Pew’s September 2009 data suggest teens do not use the platform in large numbers. While one in five adult internet users ages 18 and older use Twitter or update their status online, teen data collected at a similar time shows only 8 percent of online American teens ages 12-17 use Twitter. Pew added a rider to say the question for teens was worded quite differently from the question for adults so the results are not strictly comparable. With adults there was a sliding scale of Twitter usage with age. 37 percent of online aged 18-24 use the platform compared to 4 percent of over 65s.
While all other web2.0 platforms were on the rise among the young, the striking exception was blogging. Teenage blogging has dropped from 28 percent to 14 percent of users in the last three years. The decline spreads to commenting on other blogs. 52 percent of social network-using teens report commenting on friends’ blogs, down from 76 percent commenting in 2006. Young adults show a similar decline. Blogging as a whole had not declined as there has been a corresponding increase in blogging among older adults. The hard work in blogging is increasingly an old person’s game.