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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
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US teenagers prefer instant messaging rather than e-mail to stay in touch with each other, research shows.

A Pew Internet and American Life Project study found online teens are increasingly tech-savvy.

Nearly nine out of 10 teenagers say they use the net, up from 74 percent in 2000, according to the Pew study.

While e-mail is seen as a tool for communicating with adults, instant messaging was proving the most popular way to chat with friends.

Three-quarters 75% of online teenagers in the US have used IM, the survey found, with personalised features proving popular.

Features such as buddy icons are a popular way for teenagers to express and differentiate themselves.

Going online

American teenagers are embracing the internet, with 21 million now using the web on a regular basis.

Send or read e-mail: 89%
Visit websites about TV, music or sport stars: 84%
Play online games: 81%
Online news: 76%
Send or receive instant messages: 75%
Half of these say they go online every day, according to the Pew study.

The amount of time American teenagers are spending online and the range of things they are doing have both increased.

Just over 50% of those online use a broadband connection, 81% play games online, 76% get news online and 43% make purchases.

"Increasing numbers of teenagers live in a world of nearly ubiquitous computing and communication technologies that they can access at will," said report co-author Amanda Lenhart.

Their fondness with being online even extends to when they are physically away from the computer.

"Instant Messaging 'away' messages, in effect, maintain a presence in this virtual IM space," said co-author Mary Madden.

Power girls

The power users of the online teen world are girls aged 15-17, the survey found.

Some 97% of this age range have used instant messaging, and 57% have sent a text message.

They are also more likely to have bought something online and used the web to search for information on health, religion and entertainment topics.

A representative sample of 1,100 teens between 12 and 17 and their parents in the US were interviewed by phone from 26 October to 28 November last year for the study.

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