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American teens devour and feed Web's content
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


November 08, 2005

American teenagers are doing more than just passively surfing the Web: More than half are adding their own content to the Internet, through blogs and other interactive means, according to a new survey.

Teens share the content - which includes personal writings, artwork and photos - far more than their parents do. They also use the Net to download a lot more music than adults and are divided over whether they should pay for it.






The survey results by the Pew Internet & American Life Project do not surprise teens, or the adults who work with them. Having grown up with the Internet, it is an organic part of teenagers' lives as they have naturally progressed from e-mail and instant-messaging friends to posting personal Web pages on MySpace and other social networking sites.

"When we were growing up, that's what we did on Friday or Saturday night. We didn't go out - we talked to friends on IM or whatever," said Alexandra Wilson, a 17-year-old Pittsburgh area high school senior. "We grew up with that and kept using that as we got older."

"It's a generation thing," Norton Gusky, a school district educational technology coordinator, said in an e-mail.

"The parents, the Digital Immigrants, grew up with TV, print media and single-tasking. Today's generation is wired to the Internet, doesn't even think about print materials as resources, and multi-task."

The Pew study was based on telephone interviews with 1,100 youths aged 12 to 17, and a parent or guardian. It is broken into two parts: how teens create content for the Internet and how they consume or buy it.

It found that about 57 percent of teens online create some kind of Web content, which Pew widely defines as keeping an online journal (or blog); posting pictures, artwork, videos and the like; working on Web pages for others or keeping their own; or remixing songs and other content they have found online.

Nineteen percent of American teens - that's about 4 million - have created their own blog and 38 percent read them, compared to adult statistics of 7 percent and 26 percent respectively. Teen bloggers use the Internet voraciously, checking e-mail and instant messages, reading news and shopping.

While teen bloggers are the most tech-savvy, all teens say they are more technologically adept than their elders: 94 percent of teen bloggers help clueless adults who have trouble online, while 79 percent generally report giving adults similar help.

Online teenagers have clearly developed octopus-like multi-tasking skills that most adults don't share.

"They're so used to instant-messaging everybody. They can be writing a paper and have 10 conversations going on at once," said David Lieberman, the secondary math curriculum leader and faculty sponsor of a Pittsburgh area high school's computer club.

Older girls, aged 15-17, are the most likely group to be expressing themselves online: 38 percent are posting blogs or other content online, compared to 29 percent of boys.

Again, those results don't surprise professionals - and they do not necessarily worry them, either.

"Frankly, in my opinion, it's quite healthy and (adults should) not to be discouraged. Teens have always had opinions. They have rarely had a voice. The Internet gives them a place to be heard," said Jim Lenkner, the education technology coordinator for Pittsburgh tech nonprofit.

Just because the writing is blasting off into cyberspace, it does not mean they are meant to have a worldwide audience - they mostly use the Net as a new way to communicate with existing friends. Sixty-two percent of blog-reading teens said they only read blogs written by people they know.

Given the close relationship teenagers have with the Web, their ambivalent feelings about whether to pay for downloaded music are not so surprising, either.

However they feel about grabbing copyrighted music off the Net, two things are very clear: Finding free tunes is easy, and downloading is here to stay. Seventy-five percent of the teens surveyed agreed with the Pew statement that "Music downloading and file-sharing is so easy to do, it's unrealistic to expect people not to do it."

The study found that 51 percent of computer-using teens currently download music, compared to 18 percent of adults. Fifty-two percent of teens agreed "it's never really OK" to illegally download copyrighted music, while 47 percent disagreed.

Unlike blogging, most downloading is done by older boys. Sixty-three percent of online boys aged 15-17 download tunes, compared to 51 percent of online girls.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project, which studies the impacts of technology on American society, is an initiative by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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