NSF PR 00-80 - October 25, 2000
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New Report Challenges Assumptions About What the Internet
Means to the Public
Americans use the Internet extensively without sacrificing
their personal and social lives, although users and
non-users alike have strong concerns about privacy.
These were among the first results released today from
a multi-year study of how the Internet is affecting
Americans' behavior and attitudes. The report, part
of the World Internet Project organized by UCLA's
Center for Communication Policy (CCP), illuminates
a nation in which two-thirds of the public has access
to on-line technology that is transforming society
and the economy. The National Science Foundation (NSF)
is the primary sponsor of CCP director Jeffrey Cole's
The UCLA report, titled "Surveying the Digital Future,"
also found that adults are generally satisfied with
their children's habits on the Internet, but they
believe that children continue to encounter inappropriate
"Our findings refute many preconceived notions that
persist about how the Internet affects our lives,"
said Cole, founder of the World Internet Project.
"Yet deeply rooted problems still exist that have
long-range implications for this powerful technology."
The study evaluates what users do online, how they
use - and whether they trust - the media, how consumers
behave, how the Internet effects communication patterns,
and what social and psychological effects ensue. The
2,096 respondents in the study, both Internet users
and non-users, will be contacted each year to explore
how Internet technology evolves for continuing users,
those who remain non-users, and those who move from
being non-users to users.
"This report confirms how the Internet has come to
pervade American society," said George Strawn, executive
officer of the NSF Directorate for Computer and Information
Science and Engineering. "Because the research is
on-going, subsequent reports from the World Internet
Project should prove invaluable in tracking the Internet's
continued emergence as a social and economic force."
The study found that more than two-thirds of Americans
have some type of access to the Internet, more than
half use e-mail (54.6 percent) and 51.7 percent of
Internet users make purchases online. Nearly two-thirds
of users (66.0 percent) and nearly half of non-users
(49.3 percent) believe that new communication technologies
including the Internet have made the world a better
"Historically, Americans have been quite concerned
about their privacy," said Cole, "but those concerns
focused on government intrusion in their lives. Today,
the concerns about privacy are quite different, and
focus directly on perceptions of private companies
collecting information and tracking our movements
on the Internet."
When asked if "people who go online put their privacy
at risk," almost two-thirds (63.6 percent) of Internet
users and more than three-quarters (76.1 percent)
of non-users agree or strongly agree. Over 97 percent
of Internet users who have not purchased online express
some concern about security of credit card information.
Adults surveyed say children spend about the right
amount of time online (89 percent) and that Internet
use does not result in a child's spending less time
in person with their friends (93 percent). However,
both users and non-users tend to agree that children
can gain access to "a lot of inappropriate material"
on the Internet.
For the full report, see: http://www.ccp.ucla.edu
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