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This document has been archived.

NSF Press Release


NSF PR 00-80 - October 25, 2000

Media contacts:

 Tom Garritano, NSF

 (703) 292-8070


 Harlan Lebo, UCLA

 (310) 206-0510

Program contact:

 Thomas Greene

 (703) 292-8948

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

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 research.

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 material online.

"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 place.

"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:

***NSF is an independent federal agency which supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of about $4 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states, through grants to about 1,600 universities and institutions nationwide. Each year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 10,000 new funding awards.



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