Report: Teen Online Spending Increases

eMarketer, a New York based Internet business consultancy, reported that 26% of U.S. teens who use the Internet are actually spending money online. Despite the growing percentage of teenage online shoppers, however, the total Internet sales generated by this group amounted to a small fraction of their overall spending. Looking ahead, eMarketer projects that teens will spend $1.3 billion (US$) online in 2002, out of a total $122 billion that they are expected to spend overall, both offline and on the Internet.

1.8 Million Teen Buyers

While 1.8 million teens made online purchases in 1998, the number is expected to reach 7.5 million shoppers by 2002, representing 61% of the U.S. teen population.

“Teens as a group have significantly greater access to the Web than their adult counterparts, but they are much less likely than adults are to make purchases online,” said statmaster Geoff Ramsey, who prepared the report for eMarketer. The most common reason is because teens do not have access to credit cards as easily as adults do.

Top categories for teen spending are clothing (34%), entertainment (22%) and food (22%). Boys spend a dollar more per week than girls, on average, $84 versus $83. Two-thirds of the money teens spend is their own, whether they earn it or receive it in the form of an allowance or other gift. Parents provide the rest.

New, Fun Way to Socialize

When teens go online, they like to send e-mail, participate in chats, surf the net, play games and, when all of the other options are exhausted, use the net for help with their homework. “Girls are particularly disposed to chatting online,” said Ramsey. “For them it’s a new and fun way to socialize. Girls are also more likely to use the Internet for learning and creative expression. Boys spend much more time downloading and playing games.”

While the general population spends an average of 5.4 hours online each week, teens spend an average of 7.3 hours. “As they spend increasing amounts of time online, they tend to spend less time watching television,” Ramsey concluded, “though many do both at the same time.”

Schools Are Getting Wired

Ramsey also noted that teenagers have significantly greater access to the Internet than does the U.S. population as a whole. Almost all teenagers (98%) have used a computer either at home or at school, and while only 27% of U.S. classrooms are wired, more than 75% of America’s 80,000 schools have access to the Internet.

There are 19.3 million teenagers in the U.S. today and their number is expected to grow by 4.7% to 20.2 million by 2002. By then, just about every teenager will have classroom access to the Web.

The eMarketer report estimates that 6.8 million teenagers, or 35% of the total teenage population, could be considered active Internet users, meaning that they logged on at least once a week during the past year and spend at least an hour per week online. By 2002 there will be 12.3 million active teenage Internet users, or 61% of their total.

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