Home Computer Access and Internet Use

Publication Date:

Dec 13, 2018

Key facts about home computer access and internet use

  • In 2015, three in five children ages 3 to 17 (60 percent) used the internet at home, nearly six times as many as in 1997 (11 percent); additionally, four in five children had a computer at home (80 percent), up from 15 percent in 1984.
  • Children in households with lower incomes were less likely to have home computer access in 2015 (57 percent access in households earning under $15,000 annually), compared with 91 percent of those in households earning $75,000 or more annually; for internet use, the respective percentages were 38 and 70 percent.
  • Non-Hispanic white and Asian/Pacific Islander children are more likely to have access to a computer at home (86 percent for both groups in 2015) than black or Hispanic children (71 and 70 percent, respectively). Non-Hispanic white and Asian/Pacific Islander children are also more likely to use the internet at home (65 and 60 percent, respectively) than black or Hispanic children (53 and 51 percent, respectively).

Trends in home computer access and internet use

The proportion of children with home access to computers increased steadily until 2012, from 15 percent in 1984 to 76 percent in 2003, and then to 85 percent in 2012. This figure decreased slightly over the next few years, dropping to 80 percent in 2015. In addition, the percentage of children who use the internet at home rose from 11 percent in 1997, the first year for which such estimates are available, to 42 percent in 2003, then to 62 percent in 2012. This figure has also declined slightly, reaching 60 percent in 2015 (Appendices 1 and 2).

Differences by race/Hispanic origin1

Non-Hispanic white and Asian/Pacific Islander children are more likely to have access to a computer at home (86 percent for both groups in 2015) than black or Hispanic children (71 and 70 percent, respectively), although this gap has gotten smaller over time (Appendix 1). Non-Hispanic white and Asian/Pacific Islander children are also more likely to use the internet at home (65 and 60 percent, respectively) than black or Hispanic children (53 and 51 percent, respectively) (Appendix 2).

Differences by household income level

In 2015, children’s access to computers at home and their home internet use was positively related to household income. At that time, 57 percent of children in households with incomes of less than $15,000 had access to a computer at home, compared with 91 percent of children in households with incomes of $75,000 or more (Appendix 1). Children’s internet use at home followed a similar pattern, ranging from 38 percent of children in households with incomes of less than $15,000 to 70 percent of children in households with incomes of $75,000 or more (Appendix 2).

Differences by age

Home internet usage rises with increasing age. Around 41 percent of children ages 3 to 5 use the internet at home, compared with 57 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds and 71 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds (Appendix 2).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

2015 state estimates for children with computer and internet access at home are available at https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2017/acs/acs-37.pdf (Table 2). For information on the differences between CPS and ACS estimates, please review the U.S. Census’ Fact Sheet at https://www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty/guidance/data-sources/acs-vs-cps.html.

International estimates

The World Economic Forum has issued a report that includes 2016 country-level data on the percentage of households with a personal computer and access to the internet, available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GITR2016/WEF_GITR_Full_Report.pdf (pages 240–241).

Data and appendices

Data source

• Data for 2010–2015: Child Trends’ original analysis of data from the Current Population Survey, Computer and Internet Use Supplement, 2010–2015.
• Data for 1984–2003: U.S. Census Bureau. (1988–2005). Computer and internet use in the United States: 1984–1997. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/topics/population/computer-internet.html.
• Data for income from 2001: U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration & National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (2002). A nation online: How Americans are expanding their use of the Internet [Table 5-1]. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.ntia.doc.gov/legacy/ntiahome/dn/anationonline2.pdf.

Raw data source

U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey.
http://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/technical-documentation.html

Appendices

Appendix 1. Percentage of Children Ages 3 to 17 Who Have Access to Computers at Home: Selected Years, 1984–2015
Appendix 2. Percentage of Children Ages 3 to 17 Who Use the Internet at Home: Selected Years, 1997–2015

Background

Definition

Children who have access to a computer at home are defined as those living in a household with at least one computer.

Wording of the question has changed slightly over time, and some year-to-year changes in estimates may be a result of changes in wording. From 1984 to 1997, the question was, “Is there a computer in this household?” In 2000, the question was changed to, “Is there a personal computer or laptop in this household?” In 2001, the question was changed to, “Is there a computer or laptop in this household?” In 2010, the question was changed to, “At home, do you or any member of this household own or use a desktop, laptop, netbook or notebook computer?” In 2011, the question was changed to, “How many desktop, laptop, netbook, notebook, and tablet computers are there in use in this household?” In 2013, the question was changed to, “Does anyone in this household use a desktop, laptop, netbook or notebook computer, or a tablet computer such as an Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy, at home?” In 2015, the question was changed to, “Do you use a desktop, laptop or notebook, or tablet or e-reader?”.

Children and youth who use the internet at home are defined as those who answered yes to whether they access the internet at home; question wording has changed slightly since 1997. Since 2011, the question has specifically referred to accessing the internet at home using mobile devices.

Citation

Child Trends. (2018). Home computer access and internet use. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/home-computer-access. 

Endnotes

1. Hispanic youth may be of any race.