Survey: Internet Now Part of Everyday Life
For College StudentsCHICAGO
Andy Perez uses the library at Rice University in Houston for the quiet, not the books. He does his research online.
Edell Fiedler taps into the Internet to register for classes and check grades at Minnesota State University, Mankato, sometimes saving her the 60-mile drive to school.
Rakesh Patel regularly uses e-mail to ask his professors at Chicago’s DePaul University questions about assignments.
Stories like these have become increasingly common on college campuses. Now a new survey, released last month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, has confirmed what they suggest: The Internet has become an integral part of college life, and not just for studying.
The survey of college students across the country found that 86 percent use the Internet, compared with 59 percent of the overall U.S. population.
“For this group of college students, the Internet just works. It’s like turning on the tap and getting water or turning on the TV,” says Steve Jones, the report’s lead author and chairman of the communications department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Anyone walking into a college computer lab, or classrooms that have computers, is likely to find students flipping through any number of Internet activities. They surf for information for assignments, download music files and play online games — all the while taking time to message friends who may be across campus or across the world.
It’s what Dr. David Silver, an assistant professor of communication and the director of the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies at the University of Washington, calls “social multitasking.”
The survey found that much of students’ Internet surfing however is not related to schoolwork. In fact, 42 percent of students who use the Internet say they use it most often to keep in touch with friends by instant message or e-mail, compared with 38 percent who use the Internet most often for academics. Nearly three-quarters say most of the e-mail they send is to friends.
That doesn’t mean students are slacking off. Jones says his research indicates that students are simply using the Internet to help them pack more activity into less time.
Nearly 80 percent of students surveyed said the Internet has added to their college academic experience, while 56 percent said e-mail alone has enhanced their relationships with professors. The survey, which has a margin of error of 2 percentage points, was distributed randomly and answered by 2,054 students this spring.
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