19 Interdigitated Computer and Internet Use Statistics in the United States
Updated · Oct 11, 2022
If you’re a millennial, you’re virtually guaranteed to have experienced the “get off that computer” talk from your parents at some point in your life.
“It won’t pay your bills, will it? Do something useful!” they’d say.
Ironically, over the past two years, large swathes of the population have been doing precisely that—paying their bills by not getting off their computer for hours on end.
With the pandemic seemingly ebbing, we thought we should look at how it has changed computer and internet use in the United States and beyond.
Spoiler-not-spoiler: It has made them even more ubiquitous than before, but it hasn’t done much to fix certain demographic discrepancies.
Let’s see why.
Key Internet Facts for the United States (Editor’s Choice)
- 307 million people in the US are on the internet.
- 61% of web traffic in the United States is mobile.
- 82% of US citizens use social media.
- 35% of Hispanic and 29% of Black Americans lack access to broadband service.
- 75% of seniors are netizens.
- 95% of children who are 3-18 years old have internet access.
- 97% of teachers have at least one computer in the classroom.
2022 Worldwide Internet Usage Statistics
Let’s start by taking a look into several fun facts about the Internet and its usage around the globe.
After all, it’s called the World Wide Web (WWW) for a reason.
1. 62.5% of the world’s population uses the internet.
First things first: How many people have access to the internet?
On a global scale, 4.95 billion do.
It certainly sounds like a lot, but don’t forget the world’s population is on the verge of hitting eight billion. So, in other words, while 62.5% of humanity uses the internet, more than three billion people still don’t.
2. One billion Chinese use the internet.
Another fun way of looking at these statistics is by considering which country has the highest number of internet users.
Unsurprisingly, it’s China, where slightly over one billion people are online.
The actual penetration rate isn’t that high, though—it’s approximately 73%. This is noticeably higher than the global rate but also substantially lower than the average for Western countries, which sits at 90% or so.
3. In the United States, 93% of the population is online.
(Source: Pew Research)
Internet service in the US is available virtually anywhere within the country—something that makes it easy for 93% of the country’s population to use it.
While this number has certainly soared since the beginning of the millennium, it’s worth noting that even as early as 2000, 52% of the population was already online; by 2010, 76% was.
4. 98% of Northern Europeans have internet access.
The average digital penetration rate throughout Europe is about 92%. But if we want to break it down further, the region where the largest share of the population is online is Scandinavia (98%).
That said, certain countries across the continent—such as Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland—boast an even higher penetration rate (99%).
5. Broadband in the US costs $61.07 monthly on average.
(Source: Broadband Search)
The average cost for the internet in the 38 OECD member states is $37.78.
The US has the second-highest price at $61.07, surpassed only by Mexico ($64.26).
Interestingly, many other developed countries have substantially lower prices. Even in Switzerland—a country typically considered among the most expensive in the world—people still pay about half what people in the US do.
Put simply, internet prices in the US are higher than those in any European country.
6. Video streaming can use hundreds of MB hourly.
It’s common knowledge that what uses the most data on Wi-Fi is video streaming, but exactly how much data is “the most”?
Well, it depends.
YouTube or Netflix use around 900 MB hourly on average, but if you choose to watch your favorite shows in 4K resolution, this can jump up to several GB.
On the other hand, apps such as Zoom are generally less data-intensive (mostly due to a lower video quality), but you’ll still need to allocate around 500 MB per hour to ensure your video conferencing goes smoothly.
Streaming music, on the other hand, barely uses 30 MB hourly, so you hardly need to worry about this one.
Computer Statistics at Home and Abroad
The Internet is cool and all, but you wouldn’t be able to do much with it if not for a device that enables you to access it.
Such a device is generally known as a computer, though—as you’ll see over the next couple of stats—researchers’ opinions on what constitutes a computer and what doesn’t differ somewhat.
This makes getting accurate numbers a bit more bothersome than necessary, but we at Web Tribunal did our best.
7. 47% of households worldwide have a computer.
Computer usage statistics by country indicate that there’s still a massive gap between developed and developing countries in terms of computer ownership (amongst other things).
While nearly 80% of households in the West have a PC, only about a third of those in the rest of the world does.
While it has grown continuously over the years, the pace of computer adoption appears to have slowed down. The global average rose from 27% in 2005 to 37% in 2010, but it only reached 47% in 2019.
8. 78% of the world’s population owns a smartphone.
Mobile vs desktop usage statistics reveal that smartphones aren’t only the more recent device of the two, they’re also way more popular.
The adoption rate of mobile devices has grown tremendously in just a few years—in 2016, it stood at just 49%. Now, more than six billion people (or approximately 78% of the Earth’s population) have a smartphone.
As with PCs, regional differences do exist, but they are less pronounced. Smartphones are often the only internet-capable device that people in poorer countries own, making them crucial for connectivity across the globe.
9. In the United States, 74% of adults own computers.
How many computer users are there in the US?
It’s hard to say because of several factors, including differing definitions of "computer" (are smartphones computers or do we only count desktops and laptops?) and "user" (is it the same as "owner" or just anyone who uses a device?).
In this case, if we just consider the adults in the US who own a PC or laptop, then just under three-quarters of the 258 million adults in the country have access to a computer. That’s about 190 million people.
Interestingly, this number isn’t particularly steady—and it isn’t on the rise, either. It was 74% in 2008, and it managed to reach 78% several times (in 2010, 2012, and 2016), only to dip back down.
Now, what percentage of Americans have smartphones?
10. 85% of people in the US own a smartphone.
(Source: Pew Research)
While our mobile devices can hardly replace a desktop for serious work, they’re great for entertainment. As such, it’s no surprise that smartphones are so popular.
85% of Americans report owning at least one smartphone today, compared to 70% at the beginning of 2016.
On a side note, whether you believe it or not, plenty of people still use ordinary cell phones (probably, because smartphones can be quite addictive). If we count those as well, the penetration rate of mobile phones jumps up to 97%.
11. 92% of Americans have at least one kind of computer device.
(Source: United States Census Bureau)
Computer and internet use in the United States is among the highest in the world. You needn’t look any further than the number of Americans who have at least one type of device considered a "computer" to know that.
For this stat, we’re counting desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones (but not regular cell phones), and even smart home devices.
The bottom line is that 92% of the US population has access to at least one of these computers. That said, at present, only 53% of the people in the country have a desktop (or laptop), a tablet, a smartphone, and a broadband connection all at once.
Internet Usage in the United States
Now that we have a good understanding of who uses the internet in general, we’ll focus on the situation at home.
As you’ll find out, although most people in the US (93%, if you recall) do have access to the Web, there are plenty of demographic groups who don’t—the digital divide is very much real.
Below, we’ll look at the details.
12. 71% of Americans with no high school diploma surf the web.
(Source: Pew Research)
Despite the very high percentage of Americans with internet access, there are still some gaping discrepancies based on specific demographic factors.
For instance, we should mention that the use of the internet scales with education. For instance, merely 71% of the people who didn’t graduate high school are online. The same is true for 84% of those who did get their diploma but didn’t go on to college.
For comparison, 98% of college graduates are netizens.
Interesting fact: In the US, Whites are 55% more likely than Blacks and 114% more likely than Hispanics to graduate from university.
13. 35% of Hispanic, 29% of Black, and 20% of White Americans have no access to broadband service.
(Source: Pew Research)
Essentially, internet usage in the US is equally pervasive (~93%) across racial and ethnic groups. However, when it comes to high-speed broadband connections, the situation looks very different.
First of all, the usage rate is substantially lower across the board. Second, 80% of White households report having home broadband, whereas only 71% of Black and 65% of Hispanic households do.
In other words, these minorities are more likely to use Wi-Fi connections, which are typical of lower quality and speed.
14. 61% of web traffic in the US originates from mobile devices.
The majority of the 307 million internet users in the US have a smartphone rather than a computer. And even those that have both types of devices generally prefer their smartphone for general entertainment and their PC for more serious work.
So, it’s no surprise that 61% of web traffic in the US originates from mobile devices, with an additional 3% coming from tablets. Only 36% of website visits come from desktops.
Fun fact: Globally, desktop computers are even less popular. They only account for 29% of traffic, whereas mobiles take up 68%.
15. Not all high schools offer computer science classes.
Internet availability in the US is indeed among the highest in the world but, arguably, just having access to it isn’t enough.
Many students, especially those who belong to minority groups, would have a hard time making a profession out of computer science, as the subject is severely lacking in half of the high schools across the country.
Granted, some states are better off than others. For instance, more than 90% of the high schools in Arkansas, Maryland, and South Carolina offer foundational computer science, yet less than 30% of the institutions in Kansas and Louisiana do so.
Interesting fact: Compared to Whites and Asians, Latinos are 1.4 times less likely to take computer science classes.
Internet Usage Trends in the US
With so many people online (in one way or another), we couldn’t not probe into the latest trends.
From smartphone usage to online harassment, we’ll take you through the most important things to keep an eye out for.
16. Gen Zers stare at a screen for more than 44 hours a week.
(Source: ABC News)
While it is true that computer devices are an integral part of school and work environments, it is also true that teenagers can spend seven hours per day on their devices just looking for entertainment.
And depending on what you consider "entertainment," that number can go up to nearly 10 hours.
17. 82% of people in the US are on social media.
The latest social media statistics show that as many as 270 million Americans, or 82% of the US population, have a profile on at least one social network.
This number has stayed at roughly the same level since 2016, with slight dips and upswings year on year. Furthermore, there’s a gigantic gap between the usage rate of social media among young adults and senior citizens (90% vs 40%).
Fun fact: The social platform of choice varies from generation to generation. For instance, 78% of US baby boomers are on Facebook, but only 2% of them visit TikTok.
18. 95% of minors have access to the internet.
(Source: National Center for Education Statistics)
If you’ve read all of the stats so far, you know the digital divide in the US is apparent in multiple ways amongst various demographic groups.
The largest divide by far, however, is the generational fissure between those who use modern technologies, and those who don’t.
In the US, 95% of children under 18 have internet access at home. For comparison, only 75% of those older than 65 do. Furthermore, half of the families who don’t have internet at home say they don’t need it, while a quarter admits they can’t afford it.
Fun fact: The racial group with the highest internet adoption rate among children is Asian (99%) whereas the lowest is American Indian (83%).
19. 11% of netizens have received physical threats.
With the ubiquity of internet usage in the US, there come certain negatives, too.
Leaving the diverse array of scams we’ve all witnessed aside, another alarming concern is online harassment. For instance, 25% of netizens report they have experienced name-calling online, which often includes offensive slurs.
Worryingly, a whole 11% say they have received physical threats from other internet users. In some extreme cases, as often happens with celebrities on social media, this category can even include death threats.
Moreover, 10% of women and 5% of men have been the object of sexual harassment online.
Well, now you know how many people use the internet. You also know how many have a desktop, a smartphone, as well as other smart devices.
Do with this knowledge what you will—and do try to keep the online harassment stat as low as possible.
All in all, computer and internet use in the United States has continuously grown over the past decades, although it has now begun to plateau.
What’s left ahead is mainly to fix the digital inequalities between individuals from various socioeconomic levels. Beyond that, we can only await the next significant technological advancements.
Unaware that life beyond the internet exists, Nick is poking servers and control panels, playing with WordPress add-ons, and helping people get the hosting that suits them.