According to Nielsen’s ‘2010 Internet and Technology Report’, the average Australian internet user spends 17.6 hours per week online.

This indicates a 9% rise in the year past and a 28.5% lift on 2007. The figures swelled to 19.7 hours online for users with broadband access.

Not surprisingly, the heaviest users of the internet were those aged 16 to 29 years (22 hours per week), compared to 30 to 49-year-olds who averaged 18.2 hours per week and the over 50s who spent an average of 15.5 hours online per week. It is worth noting that internet users aged over 50 now spend almost as much time online as they do watching television (15.5 hours compared to 15.6 hours respectively).

The internet is now the preferred method to communicate with friends – overtaking the mobile phone – 44% of internet users favour online for communication (up 11%). Internet users who prefer mobile to communicate with friends has dropped by 7% to 31%.

Men are online more than women (19.2 hours versus 16.1 hours respectively). Those in the cities also spend more time online and reported considering the internet equal with TV as a preferred ‘main source of news’.

This year’s report is consistent with previous findings stating the internet is the preferred source of information, has best access to opinion and is the most trusted source of information.

The report finds the upswing has not affected other media exposure thanks to the growing habit of multi-tasking or continuous partial attention. Of Australia’s internet users, 49% are online while watching TV and 39% listen to the radio while online.

Nielsen found a 30 minute upswing in TV viewing for internet users – 13.4 hours weekly, despite OzTam’s (which uses a different methodology and includes non-internet users) recorded decrease in TV viewing.

“Changes to the Australian media landscape in recent years such as the introduction of Freeview TV, digital radio and PVR/DVRs (personal video recorder/digital video recorder) mean consumers have more options and flexibility in their media choices than ever before. This is reflected in the growth of hours spent across a range of media and the popularity of media multi-tasking,” said Matt Bruce, managing director of Nielsen’s online business in Australia.