99% of kids online, 1 in 5 parents worry

Annual USC study looks at Internet usage and finds parental concern but little perception that online access affects grades either way.

If you have a preteen, you may have noticed an inordinate amount of time being spent in email and IM. Indeed, one in five parents think that their kids are spending too much time online, although most say the Internet hasn't affected grades, according to the Associated Press.

In a study to be released Wednesday by the University of Southern California, 21 percent of adult Internet users with children believe the kids are online too long, compared with 11 percent in 2000. Still, that's less than the 49 percent who complain their kids watch too much TV.

About 80 percent of the children say the Internet is important for schoolwork, although three-quarters of the parents say grades haven't gone up or down since they got Internet access.

The study also looked at why people aren't online. Lack of a working computer is the primary reason. But, interestingly, many people who have lost Internet access indicate little desire to improve their access.

Of the 22 percent of Americans who do not currently use the Internet, more than a quarter are former users who dropped out.

"Almost nobody drops out out of dissatisfaction," said Jeffrey Cole, director of USC's Center for the Digital Future. "The reason most people drop off is they change jobs or their computer breaks."

But more than half the former users have no intention of returning online, the most ever. Overall, 60 percent of non-users have no plans to go online within the next year.

Seniors remain predominately offline, with only 38 percent having access. That's a striking distinction with the overall population (74 percent online) and under-18s (99 percent online). That number for kids is so high because school access is nearly ubiquitous.

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