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What Factors Influence Internet Use Among Teens English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1914 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Internet has become part of today’s teens’ culture and they are very familiar on how to use and navigate in it. This paper reflects on the factors that influence internet usage among teens based on a survey compiled by Pew Internet & American Life Project on a sample of over 1,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 who were interviewed randomly by phone. It indicates that 9 out of 10 access the internet regularly which is an increase of 75% in comparison to the year 2000. This high number is in contrast to the findings that only 66% of American adults use the internet. The study further showed that most teenagers first accessed the internet between the age of 10 and 12. 87% admitted using the internet regularly, with 52% of them accessing the internet daily, an increase from 42% in 2000. About 50% of these teenagers, their families used a speedier broadband connection with the rest using other means such as dial-up connections. Teens were found to use the internet for instant messaging, online blogs, initiating online chats and sending e-mails. In the survey, 75% use instant messaging compared to 42% of adults as a means of communication with their fellow age mates. The survey also indicates that 75% of today’s teens use the internet to read news which is a sharp increase from 38% in the year 2000. University of Diego’s technology trackers such as Susannah Stern expect instant messaging to keep growing exponentially due to peer influence. Though Teens interviewed felt that internet use was a source of indispensable fun and a means of communication and research. Amanda Lenhart, a Pew researcher who participated in conducting the study, found that “Teens are very selective-they’re smart about their technology use. They use it for the kinds of things they need to do.” The older teenage girls between ages 15 to 17 contrasted the myth of the tech-savvy boys since they were found to use the internet more than their male counterparts.

Literature review

To determine factors influencing Internet usage among the youths such as demographics and socio-economic and peer influence, a literature review of the available Pew research has been conducted, focusing on factors influencing teenagers access to the Internet or World Wide Web except for e-mailing purposes.

According to the literature, students are the main users of the Internet. Jones and Madden (2002) conducted a study on high school and junior college students’ Internet usage. Browsing the Internet was a daily activity; 73% of these students used the Internet more than the library for research. Seventy-nine percent of the students agreed “that Internet use has had a positive impact on their academic experience” (Jones and Madden, 2002). Princeton Research Associates on behalf of Pew Internet & American Life Project conducted nationwide phone interviews, and did an analysis on how respondents penetrated the Internet. The data results show that all 59% of the general population penetrated the Internet less than 86% of students (Jones and Madden, 2002).

Study Framework and Hypothesis Development

There are various factors influencing internet use among teens. This review provides a basis for this study based on the Pew Internet & American Life Project survey and shall primarily test on the influencing factors such as demographic and social-economic factors. Testable hypothesis shall then be proposed.

Demographic factors

The particular factors of gender, race/ethnicity, location of residence and age were very crucial in determining internet usage among the teenagers in relation to their education status. There was a general increase for both students and non-students access to the internet. There was also an increase in the proportion of teenagers who accessed the internet across common races in the United States such as Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. However, these increases have not been uniform across these groups. Most high school drop-outs were observed not to have been on the internet for the past one year with only less than 33% answering to having accessed it. This was in sharp contrast to the over 90% of junior college students who have had regular access to the internet in the age bracket of 18 to 19. Internet access tended to increase with increasing levels of education and was highly used by junior college students and post-secondary students. The widening gap between those in school and the drop-outs access to the internet is projected to rise due to increasing encouragement and facilitation of internet access points in schools. If older students already in college are exposed and encouraged more than younger students in high school, as is normally the case, age will become an important demographic factor since internet usage prevalence will be higher in older students. Internet usage was clearly greater among whites than any other race especially among males. 71.8% of white males accessed the in comparison to 50.5% of Hispanic males and 40.7% of black males. The open-ended question on where a particular teen accessed the internet was phrased and the answers tabulated using the categories of ‘home’, ‘school’, ‘library’, ‘friends/neighbor’s’, and ‘other’. Most teens were found to be more comfortable accessing the internet at a friend’s home whereby over 34.7% of males and 29.3% of the teens responded to this. Although access points such as the library were chosen by only one in eight, this was an improvement from 4.7% in 2000 to a current12.5%.

Economic factors

Teenagers from low income and high poverty areas have been most disadvantaged in accessing the internet. A survey carried on teen Internet usage reveals social and economic disparities (Taylor et al., 2003). A relationship between incomes, race and education was also observed. Levels of education were higher in Whites than any other minorities whereby the proportion of whites who completed high school was more. This had a direct impact on the number of internet users. Teenagers from low-income households estimated at three million, most of them black, have no access to the internet. Therefore, these kids may not find adults who would otherwise teach them on how to responsibly use the internet. Daniel Bassil, president of Cabrini Connections, notes that, “Even the kids that have access don’t necessarily have people mentoring them to use the information to their greatest advantage.” Teens from low-income backgrounds are less likely to access the internet for services such as instant messaging and emailing as a way of communication since most of their friends are not online more frequently. “This finding may indicate a difference in choice of content creation versus content consumption in different socio economic groups” (Bosah, 1998).

c)Social factors

Free and unlimited Internet access – When freshmen register today, they get a student

ID card, a meal card, and most, important, a free personal e-mail account. They’ve got no

online service fees to pay, no limits to their time logged on, and computer labs open for

their convenience round-the-clock. It’s an Internet user’s dream.

2. Huge blocks of unstructured time – Most college students attend classes for twelve to

sixteen hours per week. The rest of the time is their own to read, study, go to movies or

parties, join clubs, or explore the new environment outside their campus walls. Many

forget all those other activities and concentrate on one thing: the Internet.

3. Newly-experienced freedom from parental control – Away from home and their

parent’s watchful eyes, college students long have exercised their new freedom by

engaging in pranks, talking to friends to all hours of the night, sleeping with their

boyfriends and girlfriends, and eating and drinking things Mom and Dad would not

approve of. Today, they utilize that freedom by hanging out in the MUDs and chat rooms

of cyberspace, and no parent can complain about online service fees or their refusal to eat

dinner with the family or help out with chores.

4. No monitoring or censoring of what they say or do online – When they move on to the

job world, college students may find suspicious bosses peeking over their shoulder or

even monitoring their online time and usage. Even e-mail to co-workers could be

intercepted by the wrong party. In college, no one’s watching. Computer lab monitors

tend to be student volunteers whose only responsibility is to assist anyone who needs help

understanding how to use the Internet – not tell them what they can or cannot do on it.

5. Full encouragement from faculty and administrators – Students understand that their

school’s administration and faculty want them to make full use of the Internet’s vast

resources. Abstaining from all Net use is seldom an option – in some large classes,

professors place required course materials solely on the Net and engage in their only oneon-

one contact with students through e-mail! Administrators, of course, want to see their

major investments in computers and Internet access justified.

6. Adolescent training in similar activities – By the time most kids get to college, they

will have spent years staring at video game terminals, closing off the world around them

with walkmans, and engaging in that rapid-fire clicking of the TV remote. Even if they

didn’t get introduced to the Internet in high school, those other activities have made

students well-suited to slide into aimless Web surfing, skill-testing MUDs, and rat-a-tattat

chat room dialogue.

7. The desire to escape college stressors – Students feel the pressures of making top

grades, fulfilling parental expectations, and, upon graduation, facing fierce competition

for good jobs. The Internet, ideally, would help make it easier for them to do their

necessary course work as quickly and efficiently as possible. Instead, they turn to their

Net friends to hide from their difficult feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression.

8. Social intimidation and alienation – With as many as 30,000 students on some

campuses, students easily can get lost in the crowd. When they try to reach out, they

often run into even tighter clicks than the in-crowds of high school. Maybe they don’t

dress right or look right. But when they join the faceless community of the Internet, they

find that with little effort they can become popular with new “friends” throughout the

U.S. and in England, Australia, Germany, France, Hungary, Japan, New Zealand, and

China. Why bother trying to socialize on campus?

9. A higher legal drinking age – With the drinking age at twenty-one in most states,

undergraduate students can’t openly drink alcohol and socialize in bars. So the Internet

becomes their substitute drug of choice: no ID required and no closing hour!


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