College Students Use of The Internet

Arthur Tornabene-Zalas
February 12, 2002
Audience Analysis/ Ganahl
College Aged Americans Use of the Internet
The increased popularity and affordability of personal computing in recent years has put computers in many homes across the nation. This increase in personal computing has also led to a boom in Internet services and usage. Today one may find an Internet Service Provider within a local phone call from almost any home in America. This, along with the availability of new technology including Internet networks, cable modems, direct satellite links, and access from cellular phones has led to the Internet being an integral part of nearly every home in America. The benefits of this availability are two fold, not only is there a greater selection of different options in nearly every home in America, but the availability has driven the cost of Internet access down so much that it is now feasible in many homes where it was not an option just a few years ago. This, along with the vast amount of information now available on the World Wide Web, has led to a large increase in total Internet usage.

According to the Institutional Research Department at Bloomsburg University, a traditional college student is aged approximately eighteen to twenty-five. As of 2002, to be twenty-five years old, one must have been born in 1977. This fact shows that now, for the first time, the entire population of traditional college students, or college-aged Americans, is coming from the Y generation. Generation Y is comprised of Americans born between 1977 and 1995 (Shoop). This meaning that Generation Y-ers are aged seven to twenty-five in 2002. The members of this generation number seventy million and make up twenty-one percent of the current United States population. This generation will exceed the number of baby boomers at its peak (Shoop). Generation Y is also the most ethnically diverse generation in America’s history. While minorities make up approximately twenty-four percent of the baby boomer generation, they comprise a full thirty-four percent of Generation Y (Shoop). According to Shoop, they represent the most diverse, technology-savvy and materialistic generation yet.

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Personal computers and the Internet have transformed both the home and school environment. According to a study done in 1999 by Teenage Research Unlimited, more than eighty percent of teenagers have Internet access, whether at home, at school, at work, at a friend’s home, or at the library (Nye), and with the progression of time, and the advances of technology and availability in the past three years since then, the studies subjects, now nearly all college-aged Americans, have an even greater access to the world wide web than could be imagined when the study was reported just three short years ago.
College students have a very wide access to computers, because oftentimes the school provides the computers and the Internet because their schools often provide faster connections. These college-aged Americans connect to the Internet almost daily at school, or at home. They communicate with their friends using e-mail, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, chat rooms, and many other chat devices. They also are much more likely than many other groups to make online purchases (Nye). These college-aged Americans order movie tickets, clothes, computer accessories, airline and train tickets, gifts, and much more off of the Web (Nye). A large amount of college-aged Americans get much of their news from the Internet. “College students are most likely to read newspapers regularly, supplemented by radio and the Internet” (Shoop).
Yet another use for the Internet is as an entertainment source. This represents a media convergence never imagined before the culmination of the Internet as a middle-class phenomena. The computer as a tool to entertain. One of the most highly publicized court cases of the past few years was that of Napster. This case argued against the legality of an Internet website being able to allow consumers to retrieve a song from it’s database, and download it for future play. While Napster lost its case for the free downloads, the online songs can still be accessed. These songs are in MP3 form. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the top MP3 Web site, www.mp3.com, carries ten thousand files, and receives two hundred thousand downloads a day (Nye). Another media convergence taking place on the Internet is the availability of Internet radio. This is the ability to tune in to, and listen to a radio station on your computer. The radio stations available may come from any city in the United States, or perhaps the world. While one may tune into a pre-existing broadcast radio station, there is also the option of many internet only radio stations, which broadcast solely over the internet from a central location. The use of the Internet as a source of radio is an increasing practice. Internet radio usage increased a full eighty percent in a six month period measured in the year 2000 (Schreiber and Husak).

Another factor that must be evaluated is the content of the websites that college-aged Americans seem to frequent. According to Nye, when a survey was done asking the favorite websites of college students, sports-related sites were by far the most frequently named. Yahoo.com was the second most common, educational or college Web sites were the third most common, with the fourth most common Web sites being accessed being pornographic Web sites. This shows that much of the activity done on the World Wide Web is not school related, and much of it is merely sexual in nature. These students were also asked how they accessed the Internet. To access the Internet, 54.1% use Netscape and 48% use their campus server. Where are they going on the World Wide Web, and why? A full 59% use the internet for school-related research, 55.6% use it to send and receive e-mail, 28% to research career interests, 27.8% to visit their school’s Internet site, 27% to find information related to their personal interests, 24.5% to read current news, and 24% use the Internet to look or apply for jobs or internships (Nye).

With the diversity, and technological savvy that is present in the Y Generation, as well as the increasing emphasis on a continued education