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How Much Time Do American Teens Spend Online?

You would think the answer would be straightforward, but the reality is that the answer to how much time Americn teens spend online depends on who you ask…

Some background.  I’ve been putting together a proposal for a project we are submitting for the Digital Media Learning competition.  You may or may not know that we are creating an educational iPhone game called Q Racer.  I was curious to see how teens spend their time to see potentially what kinds of other distractions our game might have to compete against (that is if teens dig our game…game is also for adults too).  However, as I was researching this topic the answer to the question of how much time American teens actually spend online started getting confusing.

Personally, I think kids/teens are online like all of the time…I’m assuming they are the ones responsible for most of the inane comments  I see on Youtube…and they must be watching all the Twilight trailers and stuff like this (Justin Bieber video had 13 million views):

Anyway, I figure with Facebook, chat, videos, games, etc… that teens would spend a lot of time online, right?  But what do I know…I’m not a teen.

Looking online I started digging up some numbers.

Nielson Media Says Teens Spend 11 Hours a Month Online

The well known media research group published a report in June of 2009 that reported  “teens love the internet” but spend on average of 11 hours and 32 minutes online a month.  That might sound like a lot, but when you really think about it this averages out to 23 minutes a day spent online.  That sounds ludicrous to me…  23 minutes a day?  I’m sure they must be spending the rest of their free time studying calculus and volunteering in soup kitchens.

Some other highlights from their report:

  • Teens spend 11 hours and 32 minutes a month online which far lower than the average adult which spends 29 hours and 15 minutes a month online
  • Apparently 1 in 4 teens read the newspaper (does anyone read traditional newspaper anymore?)
  • Teens spend less time watching videos online than adults…

Either way, I found this number and subsequently the report a little hard to swallow.  The report doesn’t make any mention of how they gathered this data.  Did they survey teenagers?  How many did they survey?  It doesn’t say.  It does, however, present you with lots of pretty graphs, charts, and bold claims.  Read it for yourself and see what you think (download their report, How Teens Use Media).  I hate to be cynical about teenagers, but I know when was a teen (back when you had to hike 4 miles in the snow to get to school) I wasn’t reading no stinking newspapers…and this was before the Internet.

Not quite satisfied with their “report” I started my search again.  I figure it might be good to compare teenagers of different countries to see how close or far off the numbers might be.  I’m assuming that teens from similar western countries would have somewhat similar behaviors…

UK Teenagers Spend 31 hours a WEEK online

That’s right according to a Telegraph UK February 2009 news article, UK teenagers spend a whopping 31 hours a week or 124 hours a month online!  Per day the average UK teenager spends about 4.5 hours a day online.  Compared to American teenagers, at least according to Nielson Media Research, these UK teens are spending about 12 times more time online.  It’s like they are addicted to the Internet!

The highlights from this article I found much more interesting than the Nielsen Media findings:

  • 3 hours spent chatting on MSN Messenger
  • 2 hours on Youtube and in chat rooms
  • 1 hour devoted to “looking up cosmetic surgery procedures such as how to enlarge breasts and get collagen implants”
  • 1.5 hours “spent on family planning and pregnancy websites”
  • 1.5 hours spent researching diet plans and weight loss information
  • 3 hours spent getting help on homework (for some reason cheating came to mind…)

Can’t say how legitimate these answers are, but it does seem more in tune to how I think if I were a teenager I would be spending my time online…chatting with friends and having them give me answers to my math homework.  They also do mention that 1000 teens were polled.

Still these numbers are for UK and not the hours spent online for US teenagers.  So my searched continued…

Yahoo Says American Teens Spend 16.7 hours a Week Online

In a July 2009 MSNBC news article it reported that Yahoo researched this topic and says that teens on average spend 16.7 hours a week online or 67 hours a month online.  This translates to 2.3 hours a day online.  It doesn’t say how many people were surveyed or how they surveyed, but considering they are Yahoo and see a lot of Internet traffic I give them a little more credibility.


So where does this leave me in figuring out how much time American teens spend online?  I’ll sum it up in bullet points cause I’m getting sick of my own writing:

  • Nielson number is garbage to me, 23 minutes a day seems ridiculous to me (if you are a teen and reading this post take a break from your newspaper and let me know if this is true by posting a comment)
  • UK teens apparently spend a crazy amount of time online, but seeing as this research was conducted by a company that sells parental security software it’s kind of in their favor to skew the results higher
  • 16.7 hours a week sounds more reasonable for US teens…though I’ll assume they are still a little low and round up to 20 hours.

There you have it I say American teenagers spend 20 hours a week online.  What do you think?

Comments (6)

tahahahaha that bullshit, we spend more time than 23minutes a day

Comment by vfffgg on February 24, 2011

we spend at least 2 hours a day online

Comment by amoola on March 5, 2011

I’m seventeen and have been online for several hours (5-7) a day for the past five years. Because I can’t afford to do anything else.

Comment by emily on June 23, 2011

Nice Post. This enter helped me in my college assignment. Thnaks Alot

Comment by boonimbembags on July 6, 2011

trololol pshh I’ve spent 2 hours on the computer already…..well we know that’s a load of crap.
But I do think teenagers spend about 20 hours a week online…. I’m sure I do :)

Comment by qwerty on February 6, 2012

I think teens spend around atlest 10 hours a day on social media, texting, calling, and other interaction sites

Comment by ahha on January 23, 2014

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