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01 July, 2014
04:49 PM

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Aussie teens online

By Editor

It’s probably no surprise that Aussie teenagers love the internet—82 per cent of Australian teenagers aged 14 to 17[1] see it as at least very important in their lives, while half go so far as to say it is extremely important.[2] But what are the key online behaviours of this age group and how do they compare to adult Australians?

This snapshot presents the latest research on the digital life of Australian teenagers. Unless otherwise stated, data is sourced from Roy Morgan Research.[3]

Check out our infographic for a graphical representation of the data. 

Key trends

While teenagers are active participants online, this report shows that they are not the main drivers of growth and development of the digital economy. Compared to adult Australians teenagers—not-surprisingly—generally have lower incomes and fewer opportunities to fully benefit from online transactional activities, content and services. However, despite these limitations, the activities that teenagers do undertake online are preparing them to fully engage in the digital economy later in life (Figure 1):

  • 89 per cent have a mobile phone
  • 69 per cent of mobile phone users have a smartphone
  • 56 per cent use their mobile phone to go online
  • 72 per cent go online more than once a day.

Figure 1 Key indicators of Aussie teenagers online, December 2013

Figure1 jpg

Note: Data relating to use of the internet via a computer, tablet or mobile phone during December 2013.

Key indicators of Aussie teenagers online, December 2013 (XLSX)

Connectivity

At December 2013, nine in 10 teenagers had internet access in their home, with nearly 100 per cent of these having a broadband connection. Of teenagers without a home internet connection:

  • 77 per cent used the internet at locations such as schools, their workplace, a library or a friend’s house
  • 50 per cent went online via their mobile phone
  • 11 per cent did not use the internet at all.

Available data shows that teenagers without a home internet connection come from a diverse range of socio-economic backgrounds.

During December 2013, 84 per cent of teenagers performed one or more activities online, compared to 82 per cent during December 2009.

On the move

At December 2013, 89 per cent of teenagers owned or used a mobile phone while 69 per cent of this group with a mobile phone used a smartphone.[4] At December 2010, 15 per cent of teenagers with a mobile phone used a smartphone.[5] Over half of teenagers (56 per cent) used their mobile phone to access the internet during December 2013, compared to 16 per cent during December 2009 when smartphones were far less prevalent.

Given advances in mobile technology, it is unsurprising that the number of teenagers using the internet via mobile phones has more than tripled in the four years since December 2009 to reach 639,000 users during December 2013. The number of teenagers using portable devices to access the internet is also reflected in the 23 per cent using tablet computers (258,000) to go online during December 2013.[6]

Access anywhere

During the December quarter of 2013, Australian teenagers used the internet from a range of locations, including school (59 per cent), a friend’s house (40 per cent), wireless hotspots (20 per cent), their workplace (24 per cent) or a library (21 per cent).

Since December 2009, the proportion of teenage internet users has:

  • declined by four percentage points at home and by six percentage points at library locations 
  • increased by 11 percentage points at work and by 13 percentage points at wireless hotspot locations.

The use of wireless hotspots for teenagers to access the internet has seen substantial growth compared to other locations. In the four years to December 2013, the number of teenagers who accessed the internet from wireless hotspots increased by 176 per cent to reach 229,000. This growth in popularity is likely due to a range of factors, including:

  • growth in popularity of portable internet access devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets
  • use of prepaid mobile phone services with limitations on data allowances and downloads—61 per cent of teenagers with a mobile phone use a prepaid card or service, compared to 32 per cent of people aged 18 to 54
  • increased provision of free public Wi-Fi offered by local councils and free enterprise hotspots offered by shopping centres, cafes, fast-food eateries and other venues frequented by young people.[7]  

Trending #international

Available data indicates that Australian teenagers are following the overseas trend of young people going online using various devices (Table 1).

Table 1 Australian and US teens going online

Internet-enabled devices

US teenagers
(12–17 years)[8]

Sep–2012

Australian teenagers
(14–17 years)

Dec–2013

Use a mobile phone to access the internet

49%

56%

Use a computer to access the internet

88%

74%

Own/have a smartphone

37%

69%

Source: Amanda Lenhart, Teens & Technology: Understanding the Digital Landscape, Pew Research Internet Project, 25 February 2014.

Capability

ACMA research on children aged eight to 17, has found that as children become older, going online becomes a central activity for social interaction, education, knowledge gathering and exposure to new experiences. It becomes an integral part of their lives.[9]

Whiling away the hours

The ACMA Communications report 2012–13 shows that the trend towards more frequent online participation is reflected across all adult age groups over the past five years. This trend also applies to teenagers (Figure 2). During December 2013, 72 per cent accessed the internet more than once a day, compared to 47 per cent during December 2009. The frequency of teenage internet access is similar to that of Australians aged 18 to 54, with 70 per cent going online more than once a day during December 2013.

Figure 2 People going online more than once a day, by age

Figure2 jpg

Percentage of people in each age group.

People going online more than once a day, by age (XLSX)

Although teenagers are going online with more frequency, perhaps surprisingly they do not spend as many hours online each month as adult Australians. During December 2013, teenagers spent an average of 14 hours and 42 minutes on the internet. In comparison, people aged 18–54 spent an average of 40 hours and 21 minutes, and people aged 55 years and over spent an average of 32 hours and 12 minutes.[10]

Online channel surfing

During December 2013, the top five channels (internet domains) most visited by teenagers were Google, Facebook, YouTube, Mi9 and Microsoft.[11] Each channel is an umbrella for a number of sites:

  • Google includes Google+, Google Search, Gmail, Chrome, Google Maps, Google Earth and other Google services and products.
  • Facebook includes the Facebook platform of profiles, pages, apps, games and associated websites.
  • YouTube includes user-generated and professional media video content that can be viewed on the website, via apps or embedded in third party content.
  • Mi9 includes nineMSN, the Nine Network, ACP magazines, Skype, Xbox and other Mi9 services and products.
  • Microsoft includes MS Windows, MS Office, MS Download Center and a range of Microsoft devices and support services.[12]

Figure 3 shows that during December 2013, teenagers, on average, spent the most amount of time visiting online sites that allowed them to:

  • view/upload user-generated content (UGC)—for example, YouTube, Tumblr
  • undertake social networking activities—for example, Facebook
  • communicate—for example Skype, Microsoft
  • explore products, services and downloads—Microsoft, Mi9.[13]

The data presented does not cover the time teens spend accessing online services via mobile phone apps.

Figure 3 Teenage use of online channels during December 2013

Figure3 jpg

Base: People aged 14 to 17 years.

Source: Nielsen Online Ratings.

Note: Data covers internet browser use across all types of devices. Data does not include accessing online services via apps.

Teenage use of online channels during December 2013 (XLSX)

It’s not all fun and games

Like adult Australians, teenagers undertake a range of online activities. The majority—90 per cent—went online for entertainment activities during December 2013 (Figure 4), an increase of 10 percentage points in comparison to December 2009.

Figure 4 Types of activities undertaken by internet users by age during December 2013

Figure4 jpg

§ Refers to researching products, excluding transactional activities.

† Includes checking balances, viewing statements, checking/applying for financial products, checking home loan rates, locating ATMs.

Note: Figures are rounded to the nearest 0.5.

Base: People aged 14 years and over who have undertaken at least one activity online.

Types of activities undertaken by internet users by age during December 2013 (XLSX)

Proportionally, teenagers are the most avid users of the internet for entertainment (90 per cent) and are more likely to do so than adults aged 18 to 54 (75 per cent).

However, teenagers are far less likely to transact online than adult internet users. Only a small percentage of teenagers undertook transactional activities online during December 2013—banking and finance transactions (11 per cent) or buying, selling and shopping transactions (14 per cent). In comparison, of those aged 18 to 54, 69 per cent conducted banking and finance transactions online and 52 per cent bought or sold goods or services online during December 2013.

Confidence

ACMA research into the online lives of young Australians has found that by the time they reach the age of 17, the internet has become a thoroughly integrated part of their everyday lives.[14]

Online participation by Australian teenagers has significantly changed in the four years from December 2009 to December 2013. This is evident in the increased intensity of activities undertaken online by teenagers and their higher use of mobile phones to access online content.

This is getting intense

Figure 5 shows that the majority of teenagers are considered intensive users of the internet. During December 2013, 55 per cent performed four or more different types of activities compared to 37 per cent in 2009—an increase of 51 per cent from 345,000 to 522,000 teenagers. The number of teenagers performing only one activity has decreased by 31 per cent from 131,000 to 90,000.

However, teenagers do not use the internet as intensively as adults aged 18 to 54—79 per cent of adult Australians performed four or more different types of activities during December 2013.

Figure 5 The number of different types of activities performed online by teenagers

Figure5 jpg

Base: People aged 14‑17 who have undertaken at least one type of online activity.

The number of different types of activities performed online by teenagers (XLSX)

Making the connection

Teenagers continue to use desktop computers to undertake online activities, but many more are also using their mobile phones for online activities (Figure 6). In the four years to December 2013, the gap between the level of online activities being performed on computers and mobile phones narrowed as mobile use increased. These changes in behaviour were consistent with changes in online behaviours by adult Australians.[15] In proportional terms, among teenagers:

  • using mobile phones to go online for entertainment purposes has increased significantly to now be almost as popular as using computers
  • blogging and online community activities via mobile phones increased significantly in the period, surpassing the proportion of teenagers performing these activities via a computer
  • using mobile phones for banking and finance activities increased over the period, albeit from a low base, while mobile shopping remained unchanged, with the level of m-commerce activity being less than half of that being undertaken online via computers.

Figure 6 Teenagers’ use of mobile phones and computers for online activities

Figure6 jpg

Percentage of people aged 14 to 17 who have undertaken at least one activity online via each device.

§ Refers to researching products, excluding transactional activities.

† Includes checking balances, viewing statements, checking/applying for financial products, checking home loan rates, locating ATMs.

* Data not available prior to October 2010.

Teenagers’ use of mobile phones and computers for online activities (XLSX)

Changing behaviours

Leaders of the social media pack?

Despite data confirming that teenagers love interacting online via social media (see Figure 8 below), 14 to 17 year olds are not the dominant group in established social media forums. While Figure 3 shows that Facebook and YouTube are in the top five of online channels visited and viewed by teenagers, and Figure 8 shows what a large proportion of teenagers use them, Figure 7 shows that teenagers comprise only five per cent of each of these channel’s total number of users aged 14 years and over. Teenagers account for seven per cent of the total number of Australians aged 14 and over who use social networking sites.

Figure 7 Age profile of Australians using select social media channels

Figure7 jpg

Percentage of internet users aged 14 years and over.

Note: Data covers internet browser use across all types of devices. Data does not include accessing online services via apps.

Source: Nielsen Online Ratings, annualised average for 2013.

Age profile of Australians using select social media channels (XLSX)

Social media and beyond

The majority of teenagers are users of social media and as a group they continue to explore different types of content offered online, particularly those with an entertainment element such user-generated content (UGC) platforms and professional online video content (OVC).

Australian and US data indicate that teens are moving away from the social media heavyweight Facebook:

  • In Australia, the proportion of teenagers using Facebook decreased from 70 per cent in 2012 to 58 per cent in 2013.[16] Facebook itself has publicly stated that it had seen ‘a decrease in [teenage] daily users [during July to September 2013], especially in younger teenagers’.[17]
  • In May 2013, the Pew Research Internet Project found that US teens may have a ‘waning enthusiasm for Facebook’.[18]

Figure 8 indicates that, while Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms continue to be popular among teenagers, they are also accessing a range of other online forums, such as:

  • wikis—Wikipedia and WikiHow
  • professional OVC—ninemsn Entertainment and Telstra Media
  • blogging—Blogger and WordPress.

Figure 8 Teenagers’ use of select digital media channels

Figure8 jpg

Percentage of 14-to 17-year-olds.

Note: Data covers internet browser use across all types of devices. Data does not include accessing online services via apps.

Source: Nielsen Online Ratings, annualised average for 2012 and 2013.

Teenagers’ use of select digital media channels (XLSX)

Is there an app for that?

One of the factors making social media, user-generated content and professional online video desirable to teenagers is the convenience of associated mobile apps that allow users to quickly and easily view, stream, contribute and update content.

ACMA research found adult app users reported two main benefits when using apps—the ease with which they could use online services via their mobile phone and immediate access to the services they required.[19] In relation to teens aged 14–17, 65 per cent with a smartphone downloaded an app during 2013. In the two years to December 2013, the number of teenagers downloading apps has increased by 79 per cent to reach 454,000 people during December 2013.

Background to this snapshot

Data sources

Data in this snapshot is taken from:

  • Roy Morgan Research (Roy Morgan Single Source product)—data covers changes occurring from December 2009 to December 2013 and, in some cases, December 2011 to December 2013 due to data availability.
  •  Nielsen Online Ratings.

Estimates in this snapshot are based on the following sample sizes:

Table 2 Sample size (people aged 14–17 years)

December 2009

December 2013

Sample

Total sample

562

1,323

Those who have gone online during December

455

331

Those  who have gone online via mobile phone during December

91

219

ABS Total population estimate[20]

1,140,687 (June)

1,143,069 (June)

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source and Australian Bureau of Statistics

ACMA 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
  • digital society
  • 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 other snapshots here.

Further information

The ACMA Communications report 2012–13 is available. In addition, two complementary reports were also released:

  • Report 1—Australian SMEs in the digital economy
  • Report 2—Cloud computing in Australia.

These reports can be accessed from www.acma.gov.au/commsreport

This snapshot and all the ACMA’s research publications are on the ACMA website at www.acma.gov.au/researchacma

Comments and enquiries about research snapshots should be sent to: communications.analysis@acma.gov.au

Join the conversation and follow us on Twitter @acmadotgov

 

End notes


[1] Due to the nature of data available about Australians under 18 years, this snapshot has focused on the specific age group of 14- to 17-year-olds.

[3] Roy Morgan Single Source, December 2013.

[4] A smartphone is a mobile phone built on a mobile operating system, with more advanced computing capability and connectivity, such as an iPhone, HTC phone or Samsung Galaxy phone.

[5] Data on smartphone adoption in 2009 is not available..

[6] Time series data not available.

[7] Alex Lambert et al., Free Wi-Fi and public spaces: The state of Australian public initiatives, Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society, University of Melbourne, August 2013.

[8] 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. The age bases for this comparison are—Australia: people aged 14 to 17 years; US: people aged 12 to 17 years.

[10] Nielsen Online Ratings, December 2013.

[11] Website channels have been used instead of individual website URLs as the results of individual sites did not meet minimum sample standards.

[12] Nielsen Online Ratings, December 2013.

[13] ibid.

[15] ACMA, Communications report 2012–13, Chapter 5, 11 December 2013.

[16] Nielsen Online Ratings, December 2012 and December 2013.

[17] Julianne Pepitone, Facebook admits young teens are losing interest in the site, CNN Money, 31 October 2013.

[18] Mary Madden et al., Teens, social media and privacy, Pew Research Internet Project, 21 May 2013.

[20] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3101.0 Australian Demographic Statistics, September 2013.

Add your comments
  • Paul Clapton-Caputo

    18/09/2014 3:54:20 PM

    Excellent information source. It would be useful to be able to download the infographs as pdfs. I have on-shared your site through my networks. Glad I came across it.
    Reply
  • Tom Orford

    15/05/2015 4:05:40 PM

    this is a really good article id like to use for one of my Uni assignments. how would i reference this?
    Reply
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