While adult Internet users are increasingly “search dominant,” kids navigate the web using bookmarks, remembering their favorite sites, and accessing paid subscription content and games. That’s one of the findings from a new qualitative usability study on how children use the web by human-computer interaction researcher Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group. His report makes it seem as if kids have more of an app mentality than a search mentality when compared to adults.
Nielsen had completed a similar study in 2001, so his results are particularly interesting in the context of what children were doing nine years ago. Back then, he contended that kids were not as proficient as using the web as was widely assumed. Now, he argues that kids as young as six are highly proficient, and kids as young as nine are as proficient as adults. (Three-to-six-year-olds, which Nielsen and collaborator Raluca Budiu studied for the first time this year, are increasingly web-savvy but hindered by their inability to read.) And many kids are adopting the habits of long-time Internet users — for instance, skimming pages and skipping instructions just like adults, rather than reading them carefully as they did nine years ago.