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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Social media dominates time spent online

How popular is social media? So popular that social networks and blogs are now visited by 80 percent of active U.S. Internet users, accounting for nearly a quarter of their total time spent online. And the influence of social media continues to grow along with its popularity: 60 percent of social media users review or rate products and services, with these online reviews and ratings becoming the preferred source of information when it comes to the price, value, and quality of those products.

According to the latest Nielsen Social Media Report, Americans spend twice as much time on social networks and blog sites as they do on the next most time-consuming category, online games. In fact, Americans spend more time on social media than the next three categories combined.

Of course, at the top of the social media chart is Facebook, which now accounts for more time online than any other web site. Facebook attracted over 140 million unique U.S. visitors in May of this year, nearly three times the audience of the #2 social media site, Blogger.

Females make up the majority of visitors to 8 out of the top 10 U.S. social networks and blogs, with only LinkedIn and Wikia attracting more men than women. While the average social network user is between the ages of 18-34, the 55-and-older crowd was the fastest-growing demographic.

Social networking is also going mobile, with social networking app usage up 30 percent from the 3rd quarter of 2010. Games remains the #1 category (downloaded by 67 percent of app users), followed by weather (65 percent), social networking (60 percent), maps/navigation (55 percent), and music (42 percent).

The Nielsen survey also demonstrated the importance of social networking to marketers and retailers: 53 percent of active social networkers follow at least one brand, and 47 percent are more likely to be heavy spenders on clothing, shoes and accessories.

While the survey concentrated on the U.S. market, it also looked at a sample of 10 other global markets. In each case, social networks and blogs are the top online destination, reaching at least 60 percent of active Internet users and accounting for the majority of time spent online.

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