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Teens lag adults in Net use

A new survey says teens spend far less time online than adults, making it tough to target ads and content programming to this group.

Teenagers spend far less time online than adults, making it difficult to target advertising and content programming to this group, according to a new survey.

Contrasting popular belief that teens control use of the home computer, a survey by Jupiter Communications and Media Metrix found teenagers have fewer and shorter sessions online than adults.

Teens aged 12 to 17 spent an average of 303 minutes online in June, less than half of the 804 minutes spent by adults aged 35 to 49, according to the study released yesterday.

Although the online teen population is expected to increase, teenagers will still spend a limited amount of time online, Anya Sacharow, Jupiter's analyst for the child and teen markets, said in a statement.

"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," Sacharow said.

Authors of the report said they believe that low Internet use by teens is partly attributed to their active school and after-school schedules. In addition, teenagers often must share online time at home with other family members, and they use the Internet largely as an entertainment and communication tool, not as a productivity tool.

The survey found that boys and girls are equally represented online, but there are significant differences in the way each group uses the Internet. Businesses battling for young Web surfers must use gender-based offerings to capture limited time and attention, analysts concluded.

Teen boys focus on technology, entertainment and time diversions, the study discovered. They seek out games, build Web pages, and download software and music files. Teen girls are more goal-oriented in their surfing efforts, gravitating toward reading online periodicals, sending electronic greetings, doing homework, and communicating with others.

Sacharow added that girls follow offline brands online, but boys just want the products they are looking for and don't seem to care where they come from.

"Strong branding and alliances with online networks sway teen girls; teen boys are technophiles largely and will look for any aspect of gaming," Sacharow said.