Adults dominate Net

More adults are going online more often than teens, even during summer vacation, when kids have a lot more free time to surf the Net.

Adults use the Internet an average of 837 minutes each month, while teenagers spend an average of 264 minutes online monthly, according to research firm Jupiter Media Metrix Inc..

"That [higher adult use] was the most surprising thing," says Jared Blank, a Jupiter Media Metrix analyst. "I also expected a very big jump in usage during the summer for teens. I expected a huge jump, and that really just wasn't the case."

The analyst says on-the-job use of computers is one reason adults rack up more than triple the amount of teen Internet time.

"Adults use the computer at work, and that makes up for some of the difference," he says. "It may seem a little simple, but I don't think teens use it [the Internet] as much as is rumored, or as much as you may think. Yes, they are sitting at computers, but they are using Nintendo or PlayStation and playing games."

Between April 2000 and April 2001 the adult online population jumped 18 percent to 712 million users, the research firm reports. The teen population grew 11 percent, reaching 9 million.

Buying offline

Many of those youngsters are going online to communicate, play games, and window shop, but they aren't there to buy.

The Jupiter Media Metrix research says 89 percent of teens under the age of 17 have never made an online purchase. Nearly a third of teens (29 percent) investigate products on the Internet before buying them at brick-and-mortar stores.

The big reason for that offline bias: most teenagers don't have a credit card, according to Blank.

"That's the assumption, that teens would certainly purchase more if they had the ability to do that," Blank says. "They are perfectly willing to buy in the offline world. They have no problem going to the Gap and buying a shirt for themselves."

There are youth-oriented online payment systems such as Rocket Cash, and special teen cards such as Visa Buxx, which looks like a credit card but is actually a "stored value" card that requires an up-front deposit.

"Those haven't taken off much yet," says Blank. "But the P2P [peer-to-peer] market took awhile to catch on until PayPal came along. It's just a matter of time."

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