November 17, 2002

Parents Online

Main Report: Parents Online

Introduction

Parents are offered thousands of Web sites offering answers, advice, resources, and products that purportedly relate to them. Among other things, the Internet can help parents find ratings of violence and adult content in television shows, get advice on how to help a child who is afraid of the dark, and link up with other parents of twins or triplets if they have a home with multiple birth children in it.

This report looks at what parents do online and how they say their Internet use affects them. It contains our most recent figures about the size and scope of the online parent population, analysis of more than two years of previously unreleased data about wired parents online, and material we have explored in some of our previous reports. Moreover, it outlines some of the differences in Internet use between parents and non-parents, single parents and married parents, parents of younger children and parents of older children, and mothers and fathers.

A brief overview of the populations

Parents vs. Non-Parents: How the demographics differ (March-May 2002)

For survey and report purposes, we define a “parent” as one who responds yes to the following question, “Are you the parent or guardian of any children under age 18 now living in your household?” Thus, our definition excludes parents of children older than 18, parents of children who do not live in the same household as their children, and – because we generally only survey individuals who are 18 or older – parents who are not yet 18 years old.2

Because we exclude parents of grown children, our parent population is significantly younger than the non-parent population, and much less likely to be retired. Parents also tend to be better educated than non-parents. For instance, in a survey we conducted between March 1 and May 19 this year, we found the demographic breakdown in the table above.

Below, is a breakdown of the single and married parent populations in that March-May sample. Single parents we define as those who are divorced, separated, widowed, or never married.

Our population of single parents is younger and less educated than the married parents we surveyed. These single parents also more likely than married parents to have lower household income and are more likely to be African-American. Women make up more than two-thirds of the single parents group.

Single Parents vs. Married Parents: Looking at the demographics (March-May 2002)
  1. It is also worth noting that the Internet is emerging as a critical element in the relationship between some non-custodial parents and their minor children. A New Jersey court ruled last year that the Internet could allow a father to stay in touch with his young daughter if her mother moved out of state. Feminist groups view this arrangement as helping single mothers pursue better jobs; fathers’ rights groups see it as a threat to their ability for fathers to stay close to their children. A Massachusetts court made a similar ruling earlier this year.