A Harris Interactive survey of more than 2,000 adults in the U.S. found Internet users are now spending an average of 13 hours a week online. The company noted, however, that people's usage varies greatly, with one in five (20 percent) of adult Internet users spending time online for only two hours or less a week while one in seven (14 percent) are spending 24 or more hours a week online.
Harris noted over the years the average hours spent online have increased from seven hours in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, to between eight and nine hours in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. In 2007, it increased to 11 hours. Last year (in October after the financial crisis broke and before the presidential election) Internet users were online for 14 hours a week, double what it was from 1999 to 2002.
The age groups that spend the most time online are those aged 30-39 (18 hours) and those aged 25-29 (17 hours) and 40-49 (17 hours). Half of all those online bought something on the Internet in the last month. This includes 62 percent of those aged 30-39 and 56 percent of those aged 40-49. The survey found the number of adults online, now 184 million (80 percent), has not changed significantly since 2008 and 2007. This includes those online at work, at home, at school or any other locations. However, the number of adults who are online at home has increased to 76 percent this year, and 75 percent last year, compared to 70 percent in 2006 and 66 percent in 2005.
"The increase in the number of hours spent online in the last two years compared to all previous years is striking. It probably reflects a growing ability to use the Internet, an increase in sites and applications, increased TV watching online and increased purchasing online," the company noted. "Also, hours online may have increased because of the recession. Going online is free; going out usually costs money."
Despite the dramatic increase in the amount of time many Americans are spending in the digital world, a recent survey by the Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community found Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. Contrary to the assumption that Internet use encourages social contact across vast distances, the survey found that many Internet technologies are used as much for local contact as they are for distant communication, and 71 percent of all users of social networking services have listed at least one member of their core network of influentials as a "friend" on a social networking service.