Many uses of new media entail processing language content, yet little is known about the relationship between language ability and media use in young people. This study compares educational versus interpersonal uses of home computers in adolescents with and without a history of specific language impairment (SLI). Participants were 55 17-year-olds with SLI and 72 typically developing peers. Measures of frequency and ease of computer use were obtained as well as assessments of participants' psycholinguistic skills. Results showed a strong preference for interpersonal computer use in both groups. Virtually all participants engaged with interpersonal new media, finding them relatively easy to use. In contrast, one third of adolescents with SLI did not use educational applications during a typical week. Regression analyses revealed that lower frequency of educational use was associated with poorer language and literacy skills. However, in adolescents with SLI, this association was mediated by perceived ease of use. The findings show that language ability contributes to new media use and that adolescents with SLI are at a greater risk of low levels of engagement with educational technology. © 2009 The British Psychological Society.