Teens Now Spend More Time Online Than Watching TV

July 28, 2003 | By Tobi Elkin

Teens and young adults ages 13 to 24 now spend more time every day on the Internet than they do watching TV, according to a new study

Media Habits

Commissioned by Yahoo! and Carat North America’s Carat Interactive, the project polled more than 2,500 individuals in June using online and offline methods. The findings exhaustively detail the age group’s media consumption habits.

The study, “Born to Be Wired: Understanding the First Wired Generation,” confirms other recent reports and widespread assumptions that there has been a profound shift in the way teens and young adults treat and engage with media.

$149 Billion

The 47 million people who make up the 13 to 24 age group spend an estimated $149 billion, 15% of which is spent online, and their influence on other people extends by as much as five times their spending, according to the findings.

During an average week, according to the report, 13- to 24-year-olds spend 16.7 hours online (excluding e-mail); 13.6 hours watching TV; 12 hours listening to the radio; 7.7 hours talking on the phone (including landlines and cell phones); and six hours reading books and magazines to keep up on personal interests.

Teens and young adults almost universally engage in other media-related activities while they’re online: Some 68% listen to CDs or MP3s; 50% watch TV; 45% talk on the phone; 45% listen to the radio; 45% do homework; 21% read. Only 5% of those surveyed said they do nothing else while they’re online.

Reveling in Fragmentation

Today’s media fragmentation, a headache for marketers and a frustration for adults looking to simplify their media options, presents an energizing challenge rather than a problem for most teens and young adults. They thrive on the sheer variety of choices and enjoy managing, controlling and personalizing them.

That 13- to 24-year-olds, dubbed “Milliennials,” are extremely comfortable with such media multitasking was the single most striking study finding for Sarah Fay, president of Carat Interactive.

“We know they are juggling more media, making their attention spans shorter and more challenging to capture,” she said.


The term “Millennials” is taken from the book Millennials Rising, by Neil Howe and William Strauss (Vintage Books, 2000). According to the book, “Millennials are unlike any other youth generation in living memory. They are more numerous, more affluent, better educated, and more ethnically diverse. More important, they are beginning to manifest a wide array of positive social habits that older Americans no longer associate with youth, including a new focus on teamwork, achievement, modesty, and good conduct.”

Wenda Millard, Yahoo!’s ad sales chief, thought Millennials would have used the Internet more for entertainment instead of information purposes. The findings indicate that they approach the Web with an agenda, making search engines their first stop. For example, reports about new fashion trends in print magazines routinely inspire an online search for more information and shopping opportunities.


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