Most younger Net users get there wirelessly

Fourth-fifths of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are wireless Internet users, and while many of them are getting to the Web using their laptops, they're also using netbooks, cell phones, game consoles and e-readers, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

“More so than for their elders, the Internet is a central and indispensable element in the lives of American teens and young adults,” the organization said in its report, “Social Media & Mobile Internet Use Among Teens and Young Adults,” released Wednesday.

"Wireless Internet use rates are especially high among young adults, and the laptop has replaced the desktop as the computer of choice among those under 30," Pew said.

In contrast, Pew said, 63 percent of 30-to-49-year-olds, and 34 percent of those age 50 and older use wireless connections for the Internet.

About half of the young adults, described as “Millennials” by Pew because they are “the first generation to come of age in the new millennium,” get to the Internet wirelessly using a laptop or cell phone. Another 28 percent also use game consoles or e-book readers.

Among Pew’s other findings:

  • Blogging among teens and young adults has “declined over the past three years, even as blogging among adults over 30 has increased.” Instead, teens and young adults are choosing to post comments directly to friends’ photos or “wall” on sites like Facebook and MySpace, rather than to post comments via blogs, Pew said, with 73 percent of "wired American teens" now using social networking sites, up from 65 percent in 2008, and 55 percent in 2006.
  • While the number of adults who use social networking Web sites "has grown rapidly over the last several years," adults remain "less likely than teens to use these sites." Pew noted that as of last September, 47 percent of online adults used a social networking site, compared to 73 percent of teens.
  • Teens “are not using Twitter in large numbers. While teens are bigger users of almost all other online applications, Twitter is an exception.”

Pew estimates that 8 percent of Internet users ages 12 to 17 are on Twitter, which makes the micro-blogging site as “common among teens as visiting a virtual world, and far less common than sending or receiving text messages as 66 percent of teens do.”

"Older teens are more likely to use Twitter than their younger counterparts," Pew found, with 10 percent of online teens ages 14 to 17 doing so, compared with 5 percent of those ages 12 and 13.

  • While the computer “remains the most popular way for teens to go online,” other “more portable technologies are also now providing new paths to the Internet,” Pew said.

Among teen cell phone users, 27 percent say they use their mobiles to go online, as do 24 percent with a game console.

Thirty-five percent of adults are using a cell phone or other handheld device for wireless access, Pew said. And one in seven, or 14 percent, said they do so using a gaming device.

  • Along those lines, Pew said that “understanding an individual’s technological environment is now a vital clue in understanding how that person uses the Internet, connects with others and accesses information.” The average teen owns 3.5 gadgets out five Pew asked about: Cell phones, MP3 players, computers, game consoles and portable gaming devices.”

Those between the ages of 18 and 29 “average nearly four gadgets, while adults ages 30 to 64 average three,” Pew said. “And adults 65 and older on average own roughly 1.5 gadgets.”

  • Many young adults still favor MySpace as a place for their personal profiles, with 66 percent posting information there, compared to 36 percent of those age 30 and older.
  • For adults, Facebook is “the most commonly used online social network,” Pew said; 73 percent of adults have a profile on the site; 48 percent have a profile on MySpace and 14 percent have one on LinkedIn, a more professionally oriented, networking site.

“Adults are increasingly fragmenting their social networking experience,” and 52 percent “say they have two or more different profiles" on different sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, up from 42 percent in May 2008, Pew said.

Decline in blogging
Blogs, or Web logs, became fashionable starting in 2004 when presidential candidate Howard Dean used blogging to get his grass-roots campaign off the ground. 

Since 2005, Pew said, its surveys have "consistently found that roughly one in 10 online adults maintain a personal online journal or blog." Last year, 15 percent of Internet users ages 18‐29 maintained a blog — a 9 percentage point drop in two years, the organization said. Among teens, 14 percent say they blog, down from 28 percent in 2006. However, Pew said, 11 percent of Internet users ages 30 and older continue to keep a personal blog.

"The blogging findings certainly surprised us — until we started looking at and thinking about the other activities that have risen during this time: Social networks, cell phones, texting," said Amanda Lenhart, Pew senior research specialist.

"The ways each (social) network enables blogging — as MySpace does, by featuring it prominently on a profile — or other features, as on Facebook, where the 'notes' serves a similar function ... push users into or away from blogging within the networks," she said.

Twitter for teens — meh?
Micro-blogging site Twitter, which limits posts to 140 characters, has not yet galvanized teens, according to Pew.

"Twitter is very much a broadcast service that allows users to share thoughts with anyone who cares to follow them," Lenhart said. "Teens would often rather continue to use their pre-existing closed networks on social networks than move over to Twitter."

However, Pew found, young adults "are the most active users of status update services such as Twitter; one‐third of Internet users under the age of 30 post or read status updates online," and 37 percent of those in the 18-24 age group do so.

Game on
Pew also found that 80 percent of teens between ages 12 and 17 have a game console, like a Wii or PlayStation.

"While younger and older teens are equally likely to have a game console, boys are more likely than girls to have one," Pew said, with 89 percent of boys having one, compared to 70 percent of girls.

Fifty-one percent of teens have have portable gaming devices like a Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable (PSP), Pew said, with 66 percent of teens ages 12 and 13 saying that have such devices, compared to 44 percent of those ages 14 to 17.

"As with consoles, boys are more likely than girls to own a portable gaming device; 56 percent of boys own one, as do 47 percent of girls," Pew said. "Beyond the age and gender differences in ownership, portable and console gaming platforms are equally likely to be found in households regardless of race, ethnicity, household income or parent's education."

Pew compiled the data for its report using a combination of surveys. The teen data was based on telephone interviews with 800 teens, ages 12 to 17, from June to September 2009. Adult data was based on telephone interviews with 2,253 adults from August to September 2009, as well as additional interviews conducted in November and December 2009.