November 17, 2002

Parents are more wired than non-parents

Parents are more enthusiastic about technology than non-parents and more likely to use the Web for health information, for their work or training, and for getting religious information

Washington (Nov. 17) – Seventy percent of parents with a child at home use the Internet, compared to 53% of non-parents. These parents are more enthusiastic than non-parents about technology and its benefits and are strong believers that their children need to master computers and the Internet in order to get ahead in life.

At the same time, wired parents are less fervent Internet users than non-parents. For instance, online parents are less likely than wired non-parents to use the Internet on a typical day and parents spend somewhat less time online during an average day than non-parents.

When they are online, parents are more likely than non-parents to seek health and medical information, perform work-related research or research for training, practice online banking, get religious information and contact several types of online groups.

These results are covered in a new report about online parents by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. It contains special analysis of more than two years’ worth of surveys about how all Americans use the Internet. The figures for overall use of the Internet come from the latest survey that was done from October 7-27 and covered 1,677 interviews. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Some of the differences between parents and non-parents can be explained by other demographic realities. For instance, the parent population is younger, richer, and better educated than the non-parent population and that helps explain some of their Internet use. But statistical adjustments that take account of those other demographic facts also show that parenthood alone helps explain people’s use of the Internet.

“All other things being equal, people who are parents are more likely to be Internet users than people who are not,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “Many wired parents are convinced technology helps them stay more in control of their busy lives. Even more important is that they are anxious to make sure their children learn how to use the Internet.”

Online parents generally use the Internet as one of the technology tools that helps them get through their lives – not just as parents, but also as friends, work colleagues, consumers, hobbyists, and generally as information seekers and contributors. The impact of the Internet on life inside their homes is relatively modest. In one Pew Internet Project survey:

  • 34% of online parents said their use of the Internet improves the way they plan weekend outings and family trips.
  • 27% said it improves the way they shop for birthday and holiday gifts.
  • 26% said it improves the way they spend time with their children.
  • 19% said it improves the way they care for their children’s health.

    In some other surveys, online parents were relatively enthusiastic about the way their Internet use affected their lives. Last year we found:

  • 73% of online parents said their use of the Internet helped them learn new things.
  • 61% said their use of the Internet improved the way they connect with friends.
  • 52% said their use of the Internet improved the way they connect with members of their family.
  • 42% said their use of the Internet improved the way they shop.
  • 41% said their use of the Internet improved the way they get health care information.
  • 41% said their use of the Internet improved their ability to do their jobs.
  • 22% said their use of the Internet improved the way they manage their personal finances.
  • 22% said their use of the Internet improved their ability to find ways to deal with problems in their lives.