Teens Live in the Real World Too

New research from OTX (n=750, US teens 13-17) has found that teens prefer the real world to online. The survey found that teens are spending an average of 11.5 hours per week online, with roughly 24% spending 15 hours per week online.

Here are the “top online activities” for teens according to the OTX findings:

  1. Use Instant Messaging
  2. Visit social networking sites
  3. Send and receive email
  4. Use a search engine
  5. Visit virtual community sites

Yet the study also found that, contrary to popular perceptions, teens would rather live in the real world:

Would you rather

Have a lot of “real friends” 91%
Have a lot of “online friends” 9%

Date someone you know from school 87%
Date someone you meet on the Internet 13%

Shop in a store 82%
Shop online 18%

Watch a full length program on TV 81%
Watch a full length program online 19%

No television for a week 74%
No Internet for a week 26%

Get information from the Internet 71%
Get information from traditional media like TV, magazines, or newspapers 29%

Give up cell phone texting 71%
Give up Internet access 29%

Get your locker vandalized 63%
Get your personal homepage of profile vandalized 37%

Be limited to a TV antenna for watching TV 63%
Be limited to a dial up connection to access the Internet 37%

IM your friend 54%
Call your friend 46%

There are a few things to point out here:

  • Teens would rather shop in a store (a social activity) than online (an isolated activity)
  • They’d give up the Internet before text messaging
  • They prefer the Internet to traditional media as an information source
  • They’d rather IM than talk on the phone (as a group)
  • They’d rather watch “full-length” video on TV than online

This is a single study but what emerges from these findings is that teens regard the Internet as a tool rather than a lifestyle as many have suggested. It also shows that most are grounded in the real world and have a reasonably healthy perspective on technology.


Correction: as was pointed out to me, I read the data incorrectly. It appears that teens would rather give up text messaging before the Internet. This is somewhat contradicted by data from the Pew Internet Project showing cellphones would be the last item of technology people would give up (vs. TV, Internet). That was in my head as I wrote this.

I suspect the teens equated the Internet and IM and would prefer to give up SMS before IM. I’m somewhat skeptical of the result as presented and believe the wording of the question probably influenced the finding.

4 Responses to “Teens Live in the Real World Too”

  1. Nina Says:

    “They’d give up the Internet before text messaging”

    It seems that it’s actually the opposite case. If the stats are:

    Would you rather…
    Give up cell phone texting 71%
    Give up Internet access 29%

    …then a higher percentage of teens would rather give up texting before internet access. So perhaps they regard the internet (specifically ACCESS to it) as a valuable resource with which to directly/quickly access both their peers and the world beyond their hometown. Whether or not they’re physically at their computer 24/7, they still want to know they are connected.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    I may have read it incorrectly based on my knowledge of previous studies that showed cellphones being more important than the Internet.

  3. Nina Says:

    That makes sense…I guess the tide is turning?

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    It might be fair to say that teens would give up text before IM but they probably would give up the Internet (other than IM) more readily than SMS. So I guess I’m skeptical about the results. Probably goes to the wording of the question.

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