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Internet Peaks as America's Most Important Source of Information, Reports Year Three of UCLA Internet Project

Contributed by Here's some interest on Feb 04, 2003 - 11:20 AM

"Incredible as it may seem, for the vast majority of America that uses online technology, the Internet has surpassed all other major information sources in importance after only about eight years as a generally available communications tool," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, a unit in the Anderson School of Management and affiliated with the university's College of Letters and Science.

When Internet users were asked to rank the importance of major media, 61.1 percent said the Internet was very important or extremely important, surpassing books (60.3 percent), newspapers (57.8 percent), television (50.2 percent), radio (40 percent), and magazines (28.7 percent).

Even the newest users of online technology believe the Internet is a vital information source. Among Internet users with less than one year online, more than half (52 percent) say the Internet is very important or extremely important as an information source.

"Clearly, users consider the Internet to be their key source for the broad range of information needs," said Cole. "We are especially interested to see how the role of the Internet as an information source continues to evolve as online access increasingly shifts to broadband instead of modem access, and the Internet becomes an instantly available service in America's households."

By comparison, television remains the most important source of entertainment, with the Internet ranked fourth; 56.2 percent of Internet users ranked television as very important or extremely important, followed by books (50 percent), radio (48.9 percent), magazines (26.5 percent), the Internet (25 percent), and newspapers (22.8 percent).

Internet credibility: problems grow

Yet a sobering perception persists about the Internet's value as an information source: the credibility of information found on the Internet has declined for the first time in the three-year history of the report.

In 2002, 52.8 percent of users said that most or all of the information online is reliable and accurate — a decline from 58 percent in 2001 and 55 percent in 2000.

Non-users reported even lower levels of belief in credibility of online information; slightly more than one-third of non-users (33.6 percent) in 2002 continued to say that most or all of the information on the Internet is reliable and accurate — down from 36.7 percent in 2001 and about the same as the 33.3 percent in 2000.

"A troubling split in perceptions about the Internet is becoming increasingly clear," said Cole. "The Internet is viewed as a vitally important source of information by new users and experienced users alike, yet disturbingly large numbers of users do not trust what they find online."

"If the Internet's importance for information is growing, but it continues to be perceived as a source of unreliable information, then a 'credibility clash' is looming," Cole said. "How long will the Internet be valued as an important source of information, if the material users find online continues to be considered unreliable and inaccurate?"

Television viewing continues to decline

Year Three of the UCLA Internet Report found that television viewing continues to decline among online users.

"The trend across the three years of the UCLA Internet Project shows that users are 'borrowing' their time to go online from hours previously spent watching television," said Cole. "While survey respondents typically underreport their television viewing, the trend in viewing time is very definitely on the decline, while Internet use is rising."

Regarding television:

· Overall, Internet users watched less television in 2002 than in 2001 — 11.2 hours per week in 2002, compared to 12.3 hours in 2001.

· In 2002, Internet users watched about 5.4 hours of television less per week than non-users — this compared to 4.5 hours in 2001.

· Almost one-third of children now watch less television than before they started using the Internet at home — up from 23 percent in 2001.

· The decline in television viewing becomes even more pronounced as Internet experiences increases; more than twice as many of the very experienced users than new users say that they spend less time watching television since using the Internet.

Concerns about online privacy: still high, but down slightly

Even while the importance of the Internet grows by some measures, concerns about online privacy and the security still remain sky high.

Year Three of the UCLA Internet Project found that the vast majority of Americans continue to express some level of concern about the privacy of their personal information when or if they buy on the Internet.

Yet overall, concerns have declined slightly. Overall, 88.8 percent of all respondents — users and non-users alike — expressed some concern about the privacy of their personal information when or if they buy on the Internet — down from 94.6 percent in 2001. Those who are not concerned at all increased to 11.2 percent, more than double the number in 2001 (5.5 percent).

Concerns about credit card information: a continuing major problem

While worries about personal privacy online declined slightly in 2002, concerns about credit card security on the Internet remain as high as ever — and for many users, nothing will reduce their concerns.

Overall, 92.4 percent of all respondents age 18 or over in 2002 expressed some concern about the security of their credit card information when or if they buy online — a statistically insignificant change from 94.4 percent in 2001.

For nearly one-quarter of the respondents (23.1 percent) who have concerns about using their credit cards online, nothing will reduce their concerns about using a credit card online.

"The twin problems of online privacy and credit card security plague many aspects of Internet use," said Cole. "Those concerns decline somewhat as Internet use increases, but they nevertheless remain, and cannot be overemphasized as an important factor in online purchasing and information exchange."

Internet use at home: a dramatic increase

While overall Internet access remained generally stable from 2001 to 2002, use of the Internet at home increased dramatically.

Of the 71.1 percent of Americans who use the Internet, almost 60 percent of users (59.4 percent) have Internet access at home, a substantial increase in only two years from the 46.9 percent of users who reported home Internet access in 2000, the first year of the UCLA Internet Project.

Hours online increase

The number of hours users spend online continued to increase in 2002 — rising to an average of 11.1 hours per week in 2002, up from 9.8 hours in 2001 and 9.3 hours in 2000.

The Top Five Most Popular Internet Activities in 2002

1. E-mail

2. Instant messaging,

3. Web surfing or browsing,

4.Reading news, shopping and buying online

5. Accessing entertainment information.

* * * * * * * *

The UCLA Internet Project: Background

Year Three of the UCLA Internet Report, titled "Surveying the Digital Future," provides a broad year-to-year view of the impact of the Internet by examining the behavior and views of a national sample of 2,000 Internet users and non-users, as well as comparisons between new users (less than one year of experience) and very experienced users (six or more years of experience).

The project compares findings from all three years of the study, looking at five major areas: who is online and who is not, media use and trust, consumer behavior, communication patterns, and social and psychological effects.

The UCLA Center for Communication Policy created and organizes the World Internet Project, which includes the UCLA Internet Report and similar studies in Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Asia.

The UCLA Internet Project is supported by public foundations and private companies, including the National Science Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, Accenture, America Online (AOL) Time Warner, Microsoft, Sony, Verizon, SBC, DirecTV, and the National Cable Television Association.

The UCLA Center for Communication Policy is based in The Anderson School and maintains an affiliation with the university's College of Letters and Science.

To download the full text of the UCLA Internet Report, visit

UCLA Internet Report, Year Three Additional Highlights

In addition to the highlights cited in the press release, other important findings among the more than 100 major issues in Year Three of the UCLA Internet Project are:

(Page references for from the report are listed after each highlight)


Who is Online and Who is Not? What are Users Doing Online?


Overall Internet Use

Internet access by Americans remained generally stable from 2001 to 2002. More than 70 percent (71.1 percent) of Americans in 2002 went online, compared to 72.3 percent in 2001 -- a statistically insignificant different -- but up from 66.9 percent in the first UCLA Internet Project in 2000. (Pages 17 and 18)


Technophobia affects respondents at all levels of experience using the Internet; 30.3 percent of new users and 10.8 percent of very experienced users report some technophobia. (Page 24)

How Do You Connect To The Internet At Home?

Most households with Internet access still connect to online service with a telephone modem; however, broadband access has increased, and modem access is declining. (Page 25)

Broadband Vs. Modem: How Do They Affect Online Use?

Broadband users spend more time online than modem users in all of the most popular Internet activities. (Page 25)

How Many Working Computers At Home?

Almost one-quarter of respondents (24.1 percent) have more than one working computer in their homes. Nearly 10 percent (9.5 percent) have three or more working computers. (Page 26)

Are Your Computers At Home Networked To Each Other?

Home networking of computers is a growing trend; 32 percent of respondents with two or more computers at home have networked them. (Page 27)

Non-Users: Why Not Online?

The 28.9 percent of Americans who did not use the Internet in 2002 express a range of reasons for not being online. The primary reason is lack of the technology; 31.9 percent of non-users say they either do not have a computer or their current computer is not adequate. (Page 28)

Electronic Dropouts: Why?

The primary reason given by "electronic dropouts" --Internet non-users who were once users -- for not currently being online is "no computer available." (Page 28)

Nearly half of electronic dropouts say they miss nothing by not having Internet access. (Page 29)

Non-Users: Will You Log On Soon?

The number of non-users who say they will go online within the next year has continued to grow in each successive year of the UCLA Internet Project. Of non-users in 2002, 47 percent said they are somewhat likely or very likely to go online next year. (Page 30)


Media Use and Trust


The Internet's Importance: Broadband Vs. Telephone Modem Users

The Internet's importance as a source of both information and entertainment is higher among those who access the Internet via broadband than those with telephone modems. (Page 37)


Consumer Behavior


Internet Purchasing: Do You Buy Online? How Much? How Often?

Fewer adults bought online in 2002 than in 2001 or 2000. (Page 40)

While the overall number of buyers in 2002 has declined, their average number of purchases increased substantially over 2001. (Page 40)

The average dollars spent by online buyers in 2002 also increased substantially over 2001, but is still lower than in 2000. (Page 41)

Internet Purchasing: Does It Affect Buying In Retail Stores?

In 2002, online buying replaced some purchasing in retail stores for many Internet users, and at higher levels than in 2001. (Page 43)

How Long Before Your First Online Purchase?

Many Internet users say they waited months or years before buying online. Almost half of Internet buyers (49.3 percent) waited more than two years after going online before making their first purchase. One-third waited more than three years. (Page 43)

Why Wait To Make The First Purchase?

For online buyers who waited several months or more after starting to use the Internet before making their first online purchase, concern about using a credit card online far outweighs any other reason. (Page 44).

Online Purchasing: Will It Increase?

A growing number of Internet purchasers in 2002 reported that their online buying is likely to increase; 71.2 percent of 2002 respondents agree that they will probably make more purchases online, compared to 66.1 percent in 2001 and 54.5 percent in 2000. (Page 46)

Are You Concerned About Your Privacy When Buying Online?

Responses to several questions in the 2002 UCLA Internet Project continued to show high levels of concern about the privacy of personal information when or if respondents buy online. Yet overall, concerns declined slightly in 2002 from 2001. (Page 48)

Concerns About Credit Card Information: A Continuing Major Problem

While worries about personal privacy online declined in 2002, concerns about credit card security on the Internet remain as high as ever. Overall, 92.4 percent of all respondents age 18 or over express some concern about the security of their credit card information if they ever buy online. (Page 50)

Very experienced users describe much lower - but still relatively high - levels of concern than do new users about credit card security on the Internet. (Page 50)

What Are Your Concerns About Using Credit Cards Online?

When asked about the specific reasons for their concerns about using credit cards online, respondents most frequently say that "hackers" are a reason for concern. "Too many unknowns" about online purchasing is the second most-cited reason. (Page 52)

Notably, 8.7 percent of respondents say they are extremely concerned because they know someone who has been a victim of credit card fraud. (Page 52)


Communication Patterns


Are Internet Users Communicating More With Family And Friends?

More than half of users in 2002 said that since starting to use the Internet, they increased the number of people with whom they stay in contact. (Page 55)

E-Mail Contact, Personal Contact

E-mail users maintain weekly online contact with an average of 8.7 correspondents. Of those people, e-mail users meet an average of 3.4 correspondents face-to-face. (Page 56)

Multiple E-Mail Addresses

While more than half of e-mail users (52.6 percent) say they only maintain one e-mail account, almost 20 percent (18.3 percent) say they maintain three or more accounts. (Page 57)

Why Multiple E-Mail Addresses?

E-mail users report a variety of reasons for maintaining multiple e-mail addresses. The most often cited reason is separating work e-mail from personal e-mail. (Page 57)

Opinions About The Value Of E-Mail

Large majorities of e-mail users say that online communication: does not require too much time; makes them more likely to keep in contact with other people with e-mail; and allows them to communicate with people they normally could not. (Page 59)

E-Mail At The Office: Business And Personal Use

Internet users continue to report high levels of e-mail access at work for both personal and professional use. More than 83 percent of those who use the Internet at work access business e-mail from work, slightly lower than 2001 but higher than 2000. (Page 73)

Screen Names: How Many Do You Maintain?

Many Internet users maintain more than one screen name that is used for e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, and other online communication. Internet users average 2.2 screen names. (Page 60)

Do You Use Multiple Screen Names With Different Personalities?

A small number of users across all age ranges report that they have multiple screen names, each of which is associated with its own personality. (Page 60)


Social Effects


Time With Family, Time With Friends

Most Internet users in 2002 continued to believe that the time they spend online has no influence on the amount of time they spend with their family, or time spent with friends. (Page 62)

Where Do Children Use The Internet?

Most children who use the Internet go online at home. Well over 80 percent of children who used the Internet in 2002 went online at home - a substantial increase from 2001 and 2000. (Page 65)

Nearly three-quarters of children who use the Internet go online at school, up from little more than half of children in 2000. (Page 65)

Children Online and Watching Television: The Right Amount Of Time?

44.9 percent of adults say that the children in their households spend too much time watching television, while far fewer (18.3 percent) say children spend too much time online. (Page 66)

A large but declining number of adults say the children in their household spend "about the right amount of time" or "too little time" online - 81.7 percent in 2002. (Page 66)

The number of adults who say that children spend too much time online has drifted upward over the three years of the UCLA Internet Project. (Page 66)

School Grades And The Internet

The Internet is not perceived by most users as having an effect on school grades; nearly three-quarters of adults in 2002 said that since their household acquired the Internet, the grades of children in their households have stayed the same. (Page 67)

Children, The Internet, And Interaction With Friends

Almost all adults say the Internet has no effect on children's interaction with friends. (Page 68)

Political Power And Influence

All three years of the UCLA Internet Project have found that going online can be an important resource for gathering information about political issues; however, relatively small numbers of users believe that the Internet gives them more political power, or helps them influence political decisions and government officials - and those numbers are declining. (Page 69)

The Internet At Work: Business And Personal Use

Internet users continue to report growing levels of online access at work for both personal and professional use. Of those who have Internet access at work, about 90 percent visit Web sites for business purposes; 60.5 percent visit Web sites for personal use while at work. (Page 72)

Do Employers Monitor E-Mail And Internet Use At Work?

About 45 percent of respondents who use e-mail at work in 2002 say their e-mail is monitored by their employers - about the same as in 2001. An almost identical percentage of respondents say their employers monitor their use of the Web either somewhat or closely. (Page 74)

Does The Internet Affect Productivity?

In 2002, nearly two-thirds of users (64.5 percent) said that access to the Internet at work makes them more productive - an increase over both 2001 and 2000. (Page 75)

Are Users Satisfied Or Dissatisfied With The Internet?

Overall, users of the Internet in 2002 were satisfied with online technology, rating satisfaction with the Internet at 4.0 on a scale of 1 (not satisfied) to 5 (completely satisfied). (Page 77)

Users are most satisfied with the ability to communicate with other people on the Internet. Users continue to be least satisfied with the speed of their connection to the Internet. (Page 77)


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