June 21, 2001

Teenage Life Online

Methodology

Phone survey

Data on Children and Teens, Parents Thoughts and Fears

This report is based on the findings of a special survey of 754 children, ages 12 to 17, who use the Internet and one of their parents or guardians (total of 1,508 persons interviewed) and was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates between November 2, 2000 and December 15, 2000. Results in this report are based largely on data from this special survey of online youth and parents. For results based on this survey, the margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting telephone surveys may introduce some error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Interviews for this survey were conducted among Internet households with a child age 12 to 17 that completed a Tracking interview with the Pew Internet & American Life Project some time during 2000. The Tracking polling was done in the continental United States and yielded a representative sample of the adult population of the United States. The callback survey was of those who had told us they had children with Internet access. Households were called back to determine eligibility. Once a household was deemed eligible, both a parent and a randomly selected child completed an interview. Some families could not be reached for the callback portion of the survey; others did not wish to participate. Thus, this sample cannot be considered a representative sample of the online U.S. teenage population. The final data were not weighted.

Data on Parent’s Activities

The information about online behaviors of parents is based on our daily tracking surveys on Americans’ use of the Internet. The results are based on data from one month of telephone interviewing conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates between February 1, 2001 and March 1, 2001, among a sample of 2,096 adults, 18 and older, of whom 735 are parents and some 496 are parents and Internet users. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Some other pieces of data about adults or parents are from a call-back survey conducted between March 3 and April 8, 2001, calling back the same respondents from our March 2000 random digit sample tracking poll. The results based on the full sample of 1,501 interviews are plus or minus 3 percentage points and results based on Internet users are plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The sample for this parents’ survey is a random digit sample of telephone numbers selected from telephone exchanges in the continental United States. The random digit aspect of the sample is used to avoid “listing” bias and provides representation of both listed and unlisted numbers (including not-yet-listed numbers). The design of the sample achieves this representation by random generation of the last two digits of telephone numbers selected on the basis of their area code, telephone exchange, and bank number.

A new sample was released daily and was kept in the field for at least five days. This insures that the complete call procedures are followed for the entire sample. Additionally, the sample was released in replicates to insure that the telephone numbers called are distributed appropriately across regions of the country. At least 10 attempts were made to complete an interview at every household in the sample. The calls were staggered over times of day and days of the week to maximize the chances of making contact with a potential respondent. Interview refusals were re-contacted at least once in order to try again to complete an interview. All interviews completed on any given day were considered to be the final sample for that day.

Non-response in telephone interviews produces some known biases in survey-derived estimates because participation tends to vary for different subgroups of the population, and these subgroups are likely to vary also on questions of substantive interest. In order to compensate for these known biases, the sample data are weighted in analysis. The demographic weighting parameters are derived from a special analysis of the most recently available Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (March 1999). This analysis produced population parameters for the demographic characteristics of adults age 18 or older, living in households that contain a telephone. These parameters are then compared with the sample characteristics to construct sample weights. The weights are derived using an iterative technique that simultaneously balances the distribution of all weighting parameters.

Throughout this report, the survey results are used to estimate the approximate number of Americans, in millions, who engage in Internet activities. These figures are derived from the Census Bureau’s estimates of the number of adults living in telephone households in the continental United States. As with all survey results, these figures are estimates. Any given figure could be somewhat larger or smaller, given the margin of sampling error associated with the survey results used in deriving these figures.

Group discussions

This report also contains quotes from teenage Internet users gleaned from two group discussions. The preliminary group discussion was held in the fall of 2000 and was made up of email responses from a group of children mainly solicited from families on a sports team list-serv at a public high school outside of Washington, DC. The second group discussion was facilitated by Greenfield Online and was drawn from their panel of Internet users. The group discussion was conducted from February 12 to 16 online, in a moderated, threaded discussion format in which participants were asked to respond to questions from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, queries from the moderator, as well as the responses of other members of the group. MindStorm® uses a threaded response procedure that allows respondents to react to and build upon each other’s ideas at whatever time is convenient for them.  It is open 24 hours per day during the course of the study.  The “Mindstorm”® group discussion lasted for five days and had 21 respondents who completed all five days. The group was made up of 11 females and 10 males, and ages ranged from 13 to 17. Participants in the Greenfield Mindstorm were offered a cash incentive to participate. For both group discussions, parents and children were informed of the nature of the research. All identifying information has been removed from the comments from teens from both group discussions. Neither group discussion is meant to be a representative sample and comments may not be generalized to American teen population as a whole.

Special thanks to Susan Roth, Director, Qualitative Research, Yan Saquansataya: Manager, Qualitative Operations, Siobhan Duffy: Qualitative Project Manager and Gail Janensch: Vice President of Corporate Communications.