Internet use takes a toll on television viewing

November 29, 2001

Americans with Internet access are watching less television, according to the UCLA Internet Report 2001. The survey of 2,000 households also shows that, as users get more on-line experience, their television viewing declines further.

Most Internet users report that they spend about the same amount of time on non-computing activities at home as they did before they had the Internet. Internet users watch 4.5 hours less television weekly than do non-Internet users, however. And among users who have had Internet access for five or more years, almost 35 percent said their television viewing decreased, compared to about 30 percent among users who have been on-line for less than a year.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the UCLA Internet Project polls non-users and users alike. The objective is to survey populations in the U.S. and abroad for an entire generation, and to get a comprehensive picture of how the Internet is affecting society.

In a sign that the Internet is gaining popularity among young people, parents increasingly deny access to it as a punishment. In the 2001 survey, the percentage of parents who said they did so increased from 30.6 percent to 37.2 percent, while those using denial of television as a punishment decreased slightly from 48.7 percent to 47.5 percent.

"We are undertaking the study of the Internet that should have been conducted on television in the late 1940s," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy. "Although that opportunity was missed, we can take this chance to explore how the Internet's emergence is affecting consumer behavior, civic processes, careers and other social factors. We are beginning to look not just at the U.S., but also at Europe and Asia, and next year the sample will include Iran."

The survey provides a trove of information about how Americans interact with their computers. More than 72 percent of Americans have some form of access to the Internet, up from 67 percent in 2000. Of those not yet on-line, 44.4 percent expect to get connected in the next 12 months. Asked to rate the Internet's importance as a source of information, more than 90 percent said it is moderately to extremely important.

Strikingly, the percentage stating that the Internet is not an important information source dropped from 17.2 percent last year to only 3 percent in 2001. Trust in the accuracy of Internet information increased in the 2001 survey, as 56.1 percent of respondents said most such information is reliable, compared to 52.2 percent in 2000.

"Everyone recognizes that the Internet has reshaped society," said Tom Greene, senior program director for the NSF Division of Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research. "But the UCLA study offers vital details about how our lives are being changed. Our division of NSF tends to focus on cutting-edge networking for the research community, and this report is an important reminder of the broader impacts on daily life. For example, those 18 or younger are significantly drawn to the Internet as a way to meet people, which could have many implications."

Among 16- to 18-year-olds, 33.7 percent say they find it easier to meet people on-line than in person. For those 15 and younger, the figure is 28 percent. Those percentages far outstrip the number of adults who state such a preference, from 12.5 percent among 19- to 25-year-olds to less than 10 percent among respondents over 26 years old. Young people are also more likely to have multiple screen names and to share intimate details that they wouldn't generally reveal in person.

Asked whether they tell their parents about everything they do on the Internet, 55 percent said no. About 91 percent of parents say they supervise kids' Internet use by "keeping an eye" on them, compared to 31.5 percent who use filtering software. Just over 62 percent said they limit the time children spend on-line, and 66.7 percent said their children have to ask permission before using the Internet.
For more about the UCLA Internet Project, including the complete 2001 report, see:

National Science Foundation

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