U.S. study finds high level of satisfaction with Net

Americans who use the Internet don’t think it’s ruining their home life or making their children less socially active. In fact, they think the Internet has made the world a better place, a new report on Internet use in the United States concludes.

The report, completed by the University of California at Los Angeles’ (UCLA) Center for Communications Policy, paints an overall rosy picture of the impact of the Internet on life in North America. The centre surveyed 2,096 Internet users and nonusers for details about their income to their level of education, and from their use of the Internet to shop and communicate to their concerns about privacy.

The results were compiled into the UCLA Internet Project report titled “Surveying the Digital Future,” released Wednesday at a news conference in Washington.

The report found that more than two-thirds of Americans have some type of access to the Internet, 54 per cent use e-mail and 51 per cent of Internet users buy things online.

The study found that 47 per cent of users spend at least some time each week using the Internet with other household members, the center said in a news release. Few worry about the Internet reducing their time together. Eighty-eight percent said that since being connected to the Internet at home, members of the household spend about the same amount of time together.

At the same time, however, the Internet is placing some distance between people, the report shows. About one-quarter said another household member using the Internet ignores them “sometimes” or “often”.

Asked about children’s use of the Internet, the overwhelming majority of the adults in the report – 89 per cent – said children spend about the right amount of time online. Most also said the grades of children who use the Internet stay about the same, and 93 per cent said Internet use does not result in children spending less time in person with their friends.

However, both users and non-users agree that children can gain access to inappropriate material on the Internet.

Internet technology achieved an average rating of four, or “satisfied,” on a scale of one to five when respondents were asked their level of satisfaction, the release said. Sixty-six per cent of the users and 49 per cent of the nonusers believe that new communication technologies, including the Internet, have made the world a better place.

According to the study, users with higher incomes and more education have greater access to the Internet, but it also showed users with less education and lower incomes log on in impressive numbers. Fifty three per cent of the people surveyed with only a high school education are users, and 60 per cent of adults with incomes of $15,000 to $49,000 use the Internet. Among adults in the survey earning less than $15,000 annually, 41 per cent use the Internet.

As in other surveys of Internet users, the biggest concerns involved privacy. Sixty-three per cent agreed that when people go online they put their privacy at risk. Seventy-six per cent of nonusers also agreed.

UCLA’s Center for Communications Policy said the report is intended to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the social impact of the Internet. The center will continue the UCLA Internet Project annually by contacting the same set of respondents.

The goal of the first year of the UCLA Internet Project was to create a detailed snapshot of the Internet in America, said Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy. Next year the project hopes to begin to create a more vivid “moving picture” of users and nonusers, Cole said in the news release.