Online Behavior

Being online is both a normal and integral part of life today in the United States – especially for the youth* population. They have been accessing the internet for most of their lives, and probably can’t imagine life without it. Tweens and teens encounter all aspects of the internet, both positive and negative. While the beneficial pieces of being online are many, there are also risks associated with it that youth and the adults in their lives should be aware of. Parents especially must be involved in setting a safe and appropriate foundation for their children’s online behavior, allowing kids to develop into smart and savvy internet users.

While nearly all youth, regardless of their age, have been going online for 2 or more years, age is a strong predictor of how much time they are actually spending online. Tweens are much more likely to be “light” or “medium” internet users (going online 1-2 days, or 3-5 days a week, respectively), while teens are generally heavy internet users (going online 6-7 days a week), with two out of three 13 to 15 year olds and three out of four 16 to 17 year olds logging on 6-7 days a week.

Using the web for media and content downloading is also popular among tweens and teens; more than half of youth typically view or download some kind of media online. And similar to communicating online, this activity is more common among girls (58%) than boys (48%). Teens today are also downloading significantly more music than in 2008 from both free (46% vs. 28%) and paid services (32% vs. 25%).

While communication and downloading content are two of the primary uses for the internet among today’s youth, use for school also ranks highly, with nearly 4 in 5 teens using the web to research assignments. Gaming is also a popular online activity, especially for tweens – 3 in 4 report playing games online, compared to only about half of older (58%) and younger (46%) teens, who are playing significantly less games online than they did in 2008 (66% vs. 53%).

It’s easy for kids to download copyrighted music and movies, or to make illegal copies of software. These activities are the equivalent of stealing, and as the music industry has demonstrated, the owners of copyrighted materials are not afraid to sue for infringement.

Sites like Facebook give kids and teens a big stage for self-expression, and they’re not shy about using it. In some instances, however, they take things too far, using these sites to attack peers or authority figures. These attacks can sometimes amount to libel or defamation.

Stealing money from your purse is one thing. Swiping a credit card and going on an online shopping spree takes it to a whole other level. And whether they’re buying music or games or clothes, running up debt in another person’s name (even if it’s a parent’s) is technically identity theft and fraud.

When the record industry decided to crack down on illegal song downloads, they targeted the person who paid for the downloader’s Internet service. That means some parents, and even grandparents, were named in the lawsuits—even though it was their children or grandchildren who illegally downloaded music.


Site created & edited by Caleb Shephed & Sam Stottmann