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05 February, 2016
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Aussie teens and kids online

By Editor

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The internet is an integral part of the lives of young people in Australia, with most going online regularly to learn, keep in touch with friends and have fun. Born into an already web-connected world, many teens1 have been using the internet for the majority of their lives and fear not having access to the digital environment.

This research snapshot provides an update to Aussie teens online, released by the ACMA in July 2014, and highlights how young people are now engaging online, the devices they use and the services and activities that draw them online. Understanding the levels of online engagement by young people is the first step in exploring related issues such as trust and online safety, themes that will be developed in future research.

So, what do teens do on the internet, how have things changed, and how does their behaviour online compare to adult Australians?

This updated snapshot is produced jointly by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) and the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.

Devices and connections used to go online

At June 2015, over 935,000 teens had gone online in the previous four weeks. That’s 82 per cent of all teens, up from 74 per cent four years earlier.2 Teenage girls are more likely to have been online than boys, while those living in cities were more likely to have accessed the internet than their regional counterparts.

Eighty-six per cent of all teens have home broadband access, a rise from 69 per cent in 2011 (Figure 1). Home is still the most common place for teens to go online, with 98 per cent of internet users connecting from where they live.

Figure 1: Key indicators of Aussie teenagers online, June 2015

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Figure 1 (.csv) Key indicators of Aussie teenagers online, June 2015.

Note: Data relating to use of the internet via a computer, tablet or mobile phone in the last four weeks.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Devices used to go online

As highlighted in Figure 1, Australia’s teenagers are using a range of devices to access the internet, in proportions almost identical to the adult population.

At June 2011, smartphones were used by less than a quarter of teens (Figure 2). Four years later, at June 2015, 80 per cent of all Australian teens used a smartphone.

Figure 2: The rise of the smartphone among teens (%)

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Figure 2 (.csv) The rise of the smartphone among teens (%).

Base: Australians aged 14–17.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

A newer technology, tablets have increased in popularity relatively recently, used by 27 per cent of online teens in June 2014 and rising to 39 per cent just 12 months later. Over that time, the proportion of teens accessing the internet using mobile phones or desktop computers has plateaued.4

The shift to multiple screens

Rather than sticking to one technology or exchanging one device for a new one, most teens go online using a suite of devices, changing according to where or when they connect.

Half of teen internet users (52 per cent) are accessing the internet with two different devices, while 30 per cent are using three. Fewer than one in five (18 per cent) are reliant on only one internet access device, most commonly a desktop computer (69 per cent of those who use one internet access device), a trend which is also reflected in the broader adult population.

Trending #international

Australian teens are in step with their overseas counterparts in terms of use of internet via mobile phones and take-up of smartphones (Table 1).

Table 1: Teens going online globally

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Table 1 (.csv) Teens going online globally

*Data reflects those using a ‘mobile device’, not just mobile phone. Data collected by internet survey methodology.
Base: Australia: people aged 14–17 years; US: people aged 12–17 years; UK: people aged 12–15 years.
Note: Teenage activities can be difficult to compare internationally, as research of this age group is limited, and international agencies use different methodologies and age bases.
Sources: US data for mobile devices and own/have a smartphone: Amanda Lenhart, Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015, Pew Research Internet Project, 9 April 2015; US data for ‘use a computer to access the internet’: Amanda Lenhart, Teens and Technology—Understanding the Digital Landscape, Pew Research Internet Project, 25 February 2014; UK data: Ofcom, Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2015, November 2015; Australia data: Roy Morgan Single Source, June 2015.

Locations of internet use

Most teens access the internet in their homes—98 per cent in the three months to June 2015. This has remained unchanged from 2011. Outside of the home (Figure 3), teens are increasingly accessing the internet from a number of places, with:

  • sixty-four per cent accessing the internet at an educational institution in the three months to June 2015, up from 59 per cent in the three months to June 2011—reflecting the emphasis on digital learning
  • fifty-seven per cent accessing the internet from a friend’s place at June 2015, up from 42 per cent at June 2011.

Surge in use of wireless hotspots

Wireless hotspot use has seen the most dramatic growth in popularity among teens, more than doubling between 2011 and 2015. In the four years to June 2015, the number of teens who accessed the internet via hotspots reached 383,000, or 36 per cent of all teens going online, compared to 17 per cent at June 2011 (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Accessing the internet outside the home (%)

Teen snapshot_Figure 3 png

Figure 3 (.csv) Accessing the internet outside the home (%).

Base: Australians aged 14-17 who accessed the internet in the last three months.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Capability

The increase in ownership and use of internet-enabled consumer devices such as mobile phones and tablets, along with more time being spent online, could be reflective of an increasing familiarity among teens with the online world.

Whiling away the hours

The vast majority of Australians aged 14–54 are frequent internet users (Figure 4). Eighty-three per cent of teens are going online three or more times daily, seven percentage points behind the next age cohort (18–24 year-olds), but equal to or higher than all older age groups. The proportion of teens who are frequent internet users has increased substantially from 2011, when 64 per cent of teens went online more than once a day.Teens are more likely to use a tablet to frequently go online than most other age groups, and are leading the use of other wireless devices such as games consoles and smart TVs.

However, the single biggest factor in teens spending increased hours online is likely to be the growing use of mobile phones. This has also been highlighted in research showing that Australians now spend a greater proportion of their online time on their mobile phone (42 per cent) than any other device, despite smartphone internet sessions typically being far shorter (average 9.9 minutes) than those on desktop (36.9 minutes) or tablet (9.1 minutes).6

Figure 4: Australians going online three or more times a day, by device and age (%)

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Figure 4 (.csv) Australians going online three or more times a day, by device and age (%).

Note: ‘Other’ includes devices such as games machines, smart TVs, etc.
Base: Online Australians aged 14–17 years.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Night owls

Not only are teens going online more often, they are increasingly accessing the internet across a broader range of times during any typical day, facilitated by the easy-to-access smartphone (Figure 5). At June 2015:

  • 74 per cent of online teens accessed the internet between 5 pm and 10 pm on any given day, compared to 69 per cent at June 2011
  • 28 per cent of online teens went online between 10 pm and midnight, nearly doubling from the 15 per cent recorded at June 2011
  • the proportion of online teens accessing the internet between the hours of midnight to 6.59 am reached eight per cent, up from four per cent at June 2011.

Figure 5: Times during the day teens most frequently go online (%)

Teen snapshot_Figure 5 png

Figure 5 (.csv) Times during the day teens most frequently go online (%).

Base: Online Australians aged 14–17 years, averaged over the six months to June 15.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Figure 6 shows that mobile phone internet use has played a significant role in the growth of night-time browsing. Almost one in five (19 per cent) teens are using their mobile phone to access the internet between the hours of 10 pm and 11.59 pm. After midnight and before 7 am, one in twenty (six per cent) teens are turning to their mobile phone to go online. 

Mobile phone internet usage during school hours is also revealed by the figures showing that, between the hours of 9 am to 11.59 pm and noon to 2.59 pm combined, 27 per cent of online teens use their mobile phone to access the internet, with 24 per cent going online between midday and 3 pm.

Figure 6: Times during the day teens most frequently go online, by device (%)

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Figure 6 (.csv) Times during the day teens most frequently go online, by device (%).

Base: Online Australians aged 14–17 years, averaged over the six months to June 15.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

It’s not all fun and games, but it often is …

Like adult Australians, teenagers undertake a wide range of online activities (Figure 7). While teenagers have long been the most avid users of the internet for entertainment, latest data for June 2015 reveals significant growth in the proportion of teens streaming video and audio content (and a decline in downloading). 

Six in 10 online teens streamed video content on sites such as YouTube at June 2015, up from a third at June 2011, while the proportion of teens streaming audio content, including recorded music and radio, more than doubled to reach 40 per cent. In the meantime, the proportion of online teens downloading content has fallen from 51 per cent to 40 per cent.

Despite the rise of social networking, email remains a popular form of communication among teens, with 78 per cent accessing mail, a rise of 22 per cent.

Figure 7: Online activities undertaken by teen internet users, June 2011 and June 2015 (%)

Teen snapshot_Figure 7 png

Figure 7 (.csv) Online activities undertaken by teen internet users, June 2011 and June 2015 (%).

Base: Australians aged 14–17 years who have undertaken at least one activity online in the last four weeks.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Teens remained far less likely to transact online than adult internet users. In comparison to adult Australians, only a small percentage of teens undertook transactional activities online in the year to June 2015—banking and finance transactions (12 per cent) or buying, selling and shopping transactions (20 per cent). However, in a trend to watch, one in five teens now use online shopping services compared to just over one in 10 at June 2011.

In comparison, 73 per cent of adult internet users aged below 55 conducted banking and finance transactions online and 52 per cent bought or sold goods or services in the year to June 2015.

Content is ‘king’

Reinforcing the central role of entertainment in the digital lives of young people, available data shows that websites offering videos, movies, games or music services collectively accounted for 56 per cent of the total web browsing time of young people below the age of 18 years in Australia and 37 per cent of total web pages viewed during the month of June 2015 (Figure 8).7

Figure 8: Share of young people’s web browsing time/page views during June 2015 (%)

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Figure 8 (.csv) Share of young people’s web browsing time/page views during June 2015 (%).

*Includes YouTube. **Includes social media services excluding YouTube. Excludes mobile app data.
Note: Data relating to teens not separately available due to low sample size.
Base: Online Australians aged 17 years or younger.
Source: Nielsen Online.

Service providers driving digital participation

Digital technologies have transformed the way we interact socially and economically, changing how information and content are delivered to consumers and citizens. Behind these services are diverse ranges of organisations that are increasingly instrumental in facilitating the digital lives of young people in Australia.

Available data (Table 2) shows that for some online markets, such as videos and movies, social media and search, a small number of players account for a high proportion of the youth market. In other online markets, such as the games sector, market share is distributed across a broader range of service providers.

Table 2: Key sectors facilitating the digital lives of Australian youth

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Table 2 (.csv) Key sectors facilitating the digital lives of Australian youth

Note: Excludes mobile app data. *YouTube can also be classified as a social media company. **Excludes YouTube. ***For the market reach figure, the combined figure has been derived by removing double counting where a person accesses more than one of the sites identified. 
Base: Online Australians aged 17 years or younger.
Source: Nielsen Online.

Confidence and online participation

Diversity is key

The growing digital life of young people in Australia is evident in the increased diversity of their online participation, with teens undertaking a greater range of activities online (Figure 9)—which may be a reflection of increasing confidence and willingness to explore the online environment.

At June 2015, six per cent of online teens can be described as ‘very high diversity’ users of the internet, undertaking 10 to 12 separate activities online, up from three per cent at June 2011. A further 24 per cent can be considered ‘high diversity’ users, performing seven to nine separate activities online at June 2015, up from 13 per cent. 

Figure 9: The number of different types of activities performed online by teens

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Figure 9 (.csv) The number of different types of activities performed online by teens.

Legend
Low diversity: 1–3 activities.
Medium diversity: 4–6 activities.
High diversity user: 7–9 activities.
Very high diversity: 10–12 activities.
Base: People aged 14–17 who have undertaken at least one type of online activity (as listed in Figure 7) in the last four weeks.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

The shift to wireless

Teens now use a range of consumer devices to go online, a reflection of the trend to multiple screen time discussed earlier in this snapshot. For some activities, such as social networking and uploading content, wireless devices, in particular mobile phones, have become the preferred device to undertake these activities online (Figure 10). For other activities, in particular streaming, use of these services via wireless devices has seen a large increase over the last four years, to the point where now there is little difference across devices in terms of the levels of activity.

Figure 10: Teens’ use of wireless devices and computers for online activities (%)

Teen snapshot_Figure 10 png

Figure 10 (.csv) Teens’ use of wireless devices and computers for online activities (%).

Base: People aged 14–17 who have undertaken at least one activity online via each type of device in the last four weeks at June.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Background to this snapshot

Data sources

Data in this snapshot is taken from:

  • Roy Morgan Research—data covers changes occurring June 2011 to June 2015. Unless otherwise stated, data is averaged over the 12 months to June for each year.
  • Nielsen Online Ratings.

Estimates in this snapshot are based on sample sizes shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Sample size

Teen snapshot_Table 3- Sample Size png

Table 3 (.csv) Sample size

*Nielsen Online sample size is over 10,000. Those aged 2–17 years comprise around 10 per cent of the sample.

Australian Communications and Media Authority research program

This snapshot is part of the ACMA’s research program, researchacma, which has five broad areas of interest: 

  • market developments
  • media content and culture 
  • social and economic participation
  • citizen and consumer safeguards 
  • regulatory best practice and development.

Each snapshot covers a single issue and allows the ACMA to focus on communications, convergence and digital economy issues of interest to stakeholders. Access previous researchacma snapshots.

Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner

The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner is a one-stop shop for online safety. The Office provides Australians with a range of up-to-date information and resources, coupled with a comprehensive complaints system to assist children who experience serious cyberbullying. The Office also investigates complaints about, and takes action against, prohibited offensive and illegal online content as set out in Schedules 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

Under the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015, there are key roles for the Office relating to research about online safety for children, including to:

collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information

  • support, encourage, conduct and evaluate research
    publish reports and papers relating to online safety for children.

The Office research program will take a leadership role in promoting, coordinating and undertaking research into children's and young people's digital participation and online safety issues. Future reports will be available from here.

Endnotes

1 For this report, based on available data, teens refers to young people aged 14–17 years.
2 Roy Morgan Single Source, June 2015.
3 Adults in this snapshot are those aged 18–54 years. Older Australians will be the focus of a later snapshot.
4 Roy Morgan Single Source, June 2011–June 2015.
5 In 2015, 88 per cent of teen internet users went online more than once a day. Data for 3+ times per day is not available for 2011. Roy Morgan Single Source, June 2011. 
6 IAB Australia and Nielsen, The Mobile Story. Nielsen Mobile ratings, July preview data 2015.
7 Data relating to teens not separately available due to low sample size.

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