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14% of U.S. children online

A study by Find/SVP says a surprisingly large number of children and teens in the United States access the Net, and the number will continue to grow rapidly.

About 14 percent of U.S. children and teenagers log onto the Internet, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of the industry, according to a new study by Find/SVP.

In addition, the children's market is poised for more explosive growth as more schools get wired and as parents buy computers in record numbers, largely for their children's education.

"While the Internet industry at large is striving to discover successful business models and new ways to reach more mainstream users, there is another audience emerging online that has barely been acknowledged: children," the report says. "Through government and private initiatives to wire schools as well as the record growth of Internet access at home, children are gathering online in highly marketable numbers."

The report is the latest sign of the growth of the children's online market, up more than fourfold in the past two years, and its future potential. Disney gets a new face The average annual income in households where children are online is $52,400. This lucrative market has led companies such as Disney, Time Warner, Viacom, America Online, MSN, Yahoo, Excite, and others to launch Web sites or channels dedicated to children.

Among the report's findings include the following:

  • About 9.8 million children used the Internet as of the second quarter, representing 14 percent of the U.S. population of 69.9 million children under age 18.

  • Surfing, informal learning, email, and chat are the most popular online activities. Nearly 40 percent of adults surveyed want their children to use the Internet for entertainment in place of television.

  • A majority of children and teens online, some 5.7 million, access the Net from home. But the number of children who access the Net from school, about 4.1 million, is growing and will eclipse those logging in from home by late 1998 or early 1999.

    "This transition could catalyze online growth at home and create a new channel of online brand influence as children in ever-increasing numbers ask their parents for Internet access at home," the study says. "Brands that establish themselves online in the school/educational arena could gain leverage for consumer market penetrations similar to the way Apple Computer made inroads into the early home-PC market."

    The growth also could increase demand for TV-based Internet access. Companies such as WebTV and Microsoft already are starting to capitalize on those trends. Apple, as reported, is considering the sale of network computers as well.