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September 16, 2013

Most American cell owners access Net from their mobiles

There’s a new Pew Internet [twitter: @PewInternet] report on American access to the Internet via mobile phones. Here’s a summary from their PR mailing:

The main finding is that 63% of adult cell owners now use their phones to go online, a figure that has doubled since we first started tracking internet usage on cell phones in 2009. In addition, 34% of these cell internet users say that they mostly go online using their cell phone. That means that 21% of all adult cell owners now do most of their online browsing using their mobile phone—and not some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer.

The full here report is here, for free as usual. Thanks, Pew Internet!


September 5, 2013

Pew Internet survey on Net privacy: Most of us have done something about it

Pew Internet has a new study out that shows that most of us have done something to maintain our privacy (or at least the illusion of it) on the Net. Here’s the summary from the report’s home page:

A new survey finds that most internet users would like to be anonymous online, but many think it is not possible to be completely anonymous online. Some of the key findings:

  • 86% of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprintsâ??ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their email.

  • 55% of internet users have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations, or the government.

The representative survey of 792 internet users also finds that notable numbers of internet users say they have experienced problems because others stole their personal information or otherwise took advantage of their visibility online. Specifically:

  • 21% of internet users have had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else without permission.

  • 12% have been stalked or harassed online.

  • 11% have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security Number, credit card, or bank account information.

  • 6% have been the victim of an online scam and lost money.

  • 6% have had their reputation damaged because of something that happened online.

  • 4% have been led into physical danger because of something that happened online.

You can read the whole thing online or download the pdf, for free. Thank you, Pew Internet!

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November 2, 2012

[2b2k] How students e-research…and is it helping?

Pew Internet has been producing some important and interesting studies on how students do research in the world of e.

A couple of weeks ago, Pew released a report on how Americans 16-29 use the library. Here’s Pew’s highlights:

  • 83% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year. Some 75% read a print book, 19% read an e-book, and 11% listened to an audiobook.

  • Among Americans who read e-books, those under age 30 are more likely to read their e-books on a cell phone (41%) or computer (55%) than on an e-book reader such as a Kindle (23%) or tablet (16%).

  • Overall, 47% of younger Americans read long-form e-content such as books, magazines or newspapers. E-content readers under age 30 are more likely than older e-content readers to say that they are reading more these days due to the availability of e-content (40% vs. 28%).

  • 60% of Americans under age 30 used the library in the past year. Some 46% used the library for research, 38% borrowed books (print books, audiobooks, or e-books), and 23% borrowed newspapers, magazines, or journals.

  • Many of these young readers do not know they can borrow an e-book from a library, and a majority of them express the wish they could do so on pre-loaded e-readers. Some 10% of the e-book readers in this group have borrowed an e-book from a library and, among those who have not borrowed an e-book, 52% said they were unaware they could do so. Some 58% of those under age 30 who do not currently borrow e-books from libraries say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to borrow pre-loaded e-readers if their library offered that service.

The report usefully breaks its population into three age groups.

Then yesterday, Pew Internet released a report called How Teens Do Research in the Digital World. It surveys Advanced Placement teachers and National Writing Program communities. Her’s Pew’s overall summary:

Overall, teachers who participated in this study characterize the impact of today’s digital environment on their students’ research habits and skills as mostly positive, yet multi-faceted and not without drawbacks. Among the more positive impacts they see: the best students access a greater depth and breadth of information on topics that interest them; students can take advantage of the availability of educational material in engaging multimedia formats; and many become more self-reliant researchers.

At the same time, these teachers juxtapose these benefits against some emerging concerns. Specifically, some teachers worry about students’ overdependence on search engines; the difficulty many students have judging the quality of online information; the general level of literacy of today’s students; increasing distractions pulling at students and poor time management skills; students’ potentially diminished critical thinking capacity; and the ease with which today’s students can borrow from the work of others.

These teachers report that students rely mainly on search engines to conduct research, in lieu of other resources such as online databases, the news sites of respected news organizations, printed books, or reference librarians.

Overall, the vast majority of these teachers say a top priority in today’s classrooms should be teaching students how to “judge the quality of online information.” As a result, a significant portion of the teachers surveyed here report spending class time discussing with students how search engines work, how to assess the reliability of the information they find online, and how to improve their search skills. They also spend time constructing assignments that point students toward the best online resources and encourage the use of sources other than search engines.

But the most distressing takeaway is: “87% say these technologies are creating an ‘easily distracted generation with short attention spans’ and 64% say today’s digital technologies ‘do more to distract students than to help them academically.”

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June 22, 2012

12% have borrowed an ebook from their library, but most don’t know they can

A new report from Pew Internet says that most Americans don’t know that they can borrow e-books from their local public libraries, while 12% of e-book readers (16 years and older) have borrowed an e-book from their local public library. (More than 75% of local public libraries in the US do lend out e-books.)

Those who do borrow e-books think the selection is quite good: 16% excellent, 18% very good, and 32% good.

“58% of Americans have a library card, and 69% say that their local library is important to them and their family.”

Lots more of interesting and important data in this report. As always, Pew Internet puts it out for free. Thank you, Pew!

And as a small gesture of thanks, here’s a plug for the new book by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman Networked: The New Social Operating System. Lee is the head of Pew Internet. I haven’t read it yet, but given its authors, I have a lot of confidence that it’s well worth reading.

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April 13, 2012

Digital Differences – a Pew survey

Highlighted results from a new Pew Internet poll (taken directly from their pr email):

  • One in five American adults does not use the internet. Senior citizens, those who prefer to take our interviews in Spanish rather than English, adults with less than a high school education, and those living in households earning less than $30,000 per year are the least likely adults to have internet access.

  • Among adults who do not use the internet, almost half have told us that the main reason they don’t go online is because they don’t think the internet is relevant to them. Most have never used the internet before, and don’t have anyone in their household who does.

  • The 27% of adults living with disability in the U.S. today are significantly less likely than adults without a disability to go online (54% vs. 81%). Furthermore, 2% of adults have a disability or illness that makes it more difficult or impossible for them to use the internet at all.

  • 88% of American adults have a cell phone, 57% have a laptop, 19% own an e-book reader, and 19% have a tablet computer; about six in ten adults (63%) go online wirelessly with one of those devices. Gadget ownership is generally correlated with age, education, and household income, although some devices—notably e-book readers and tablets—are as popular or even more popular with adults in their thirties and forties than young adults ages 18-29.

  • The rise of mobile is changing the story. Groups that have traditionally been on the other side of the digital divide in basic internet access are using wireless connections to go online. Among smartphone owners, young adults, minorities, those with no college experience, and those with lower household income levels are more likely than other groups to say that their phone is their main source of internet access.

    More from Pew’s Lee Rainie here. Data here.

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    March 19, 2012

    Those darn kids and their texts — and their not geolocating

    Here’s Pew Internet’s bulleted summary of a new survey of teens and their texts:

    • Texting continues to cement its place as the central communications tool of teen social life – the frequency and overall volume of texts are both up since 2009.

    • Voice calling on both mobile phones and (in some circumstances) on landlines is in decline.

    • The heaviest texters are also the heaviest talkers. Teens who text the most are also the most likely to make calls, talk with people face to face outside of school, and use social network sites.

    • One quarter of teens have a smartphone. The oldest teens (ages 16 and 17) are the most likely to report smartphone ownership. Otherwise, there are few demographic differences between smartphone and regular cell phone owners.

    • Smartphone owners are more likely than regular phone owners to: use tablets to go online; use a location-based service on their cell phone, use social media sites, send and receive texts on a typical day.

    • Only a small fraction of American teens use location-based services on their cell phones – 6% of teens 12-17 use the services to share their location.

    I found that last bullet surprising. Are the teens showing surprisingly mature caution, or did they just not find the “on” button yet?

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    February 9, 2012

    How kind are social networks?

    Fascinating report by Pew Internet on the emotional climate adults find on social networking sites. From a summary of the report circulated by Pew:

    • 85% of SNS-using adults say that their experience on the sites is that people are mostly kind, compared with 5% who say people they observe on the sites are mostly unkind and another 5% who say their answer depends on the situation.

    • At the same time, 49% of SNS-using adults said they have seen mean or cruel behavior displayed by others at least occasionally. And 26% said they had experienced at least one of the bad outcomes that were queried in the survey.

    It’s easy to see how this compares with our expectations about social networks. For me, I was pleasantly surprised at the 85% number, and would have guessed the 49% would have been higher. After all, I’ve seen occasional mean acts even on mailing lists among people who have come to know one another pretty well over the years. And you can’t have a blog for long without attracting some mean-spirited comments, On the other hand, it’s hard to know what to make of this compared to non-digital social networks. Would 49% of adults say that they have seen mean or cruel behavior at work? Among their extended set of real-world friends? At parties they’ve gone to? It’s hard to know exactly what an online network compares to structurally.

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    December 30, 2010

    No category of digital content has attracted payments from more than 33% of American Net users

    Pew Internet reports that 65% of American Net users (75% of the people they contacted) have paid for online, digital content. Ever. And there’s no category of goods in which more than one third of the respondents have ever paid for content.

    The content could include articles, music, software, or anything else in digital form. Here are the results for the fifteen different types of content Pew asked about:

    • 33% of internet users have paid for digital music online

    • 33% have paid for software

    • 21% have paid for apps for their cell phones or tablet computers

    • 19% have paid for digital games

    • 18% have paid for digital newspaper, magazine, or journal articles or reports

    • 16% have paid for videos, movies, or TV shows

    • 15% have paid for ringtones

    • 12% have paid for digital photos

    • 11% have paid for members-only premium content from a website that has other free material on it

    • 10% have paid for e-books

    • 7% have paid for podcasts

    • 5% have paid for tools or materials to use in video or computer games

    • 5% have paid for “cheats or codes” to help them in video games

    • 5% have paid to access particular websites such as online dating sites or services

    • 2% have paid for adult content

    The first three are way lower than I would have expected. That 15% have paid for ringtones I find bewildering and just a little depressing. That 2% report having paid for “adult content” I take as meaning 2% actually responded, “Yeah, I pay for porn. You gotta problem with that?”

    Overall, there are a number of different conclusions we could draw:

    1. The survey was flawed. (The survey questions are here [pdf]). But Pew is a reputable group, and not in service of some other group with an agenda.

    2. There is such a wealth of goodness on the Net that in no single category do a majority of people have to use money to get what they want.

    3. This a sign of disease: So few people are paying for anything that entire categories of goods-provisioning are going to die, taking the abundances with them.

    4. This is a sign of health: New business models based on minority participation are and will emerge that will keep the categories alive, and, indeed, flourishing.

    5. Most of what’s available on the Net sucks so much that we won’t pay for it.

    6. We are just so over paying for things, dude.

    FWIW, I find I’m willing to pay for more content these days, in part out of a sense of responsibility, in part because the payment mechanisms have gotten easier, and always if I can sense the human behind the transaction. (This is a self-report, not a principled stand.)


    November 24, 2010

    Rich Net users are different

    A new Pew Internet survey confirms some obvious assumptions as well as some not so obvious ones about differences in how the Net is used by those with more money and those with less.

    For example, U.S. households with an income of $75K tend to have faster connections and more Net devices. But also:

    • “Even among those who use the internet, the well off are more likely than those with less income to use technology.”

    • The richer are more likely to get their news online.

    • “Some 86% of internet users in higher-income households go online daily, compared with 54% in the lowest income bracket.”

    • “79% of the internet users in the higher earning bracket have visited a government website at the local, state or federal level versus 56% of those who fall into the lowest-income group”

    Obviously, there may well be other correlations going on here. But it’s an interesting report, and one that confirms for those who need it that the Net is different depending on the circumstances within which it is embedded.

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    July 25, 2009

    The racial divide in Internet devices

    A Pew Internet report says that while 56% of Americans have accessed the Internet wirelessly, there’s a stark racial divide in the devices we use. About half of the African-American and English-speaking Hispanic population accesses the Net through cellphones and other handheld devices, but only 28% of white Americans have ever done so.

    Three bullet points quoted from the report:

    * 48% of Africans Americans have at one time used their mobile device to access the internet for information, emailing, or instant-messaging, half again the national average of 32%.

    * 29% of African Americans use the internet on their handheld on an average day, also about half again the national average of 19%.

    * Compared with 2007, when 12% of African Americans used the internet on their mobile on the average day, use of the mobile internet is up by 141%.

    We can read this in many different ways:

    • Mobiles are helping to end the digital racial divide

    • Mobiles are extending the digital racial divide by providing second-class Net access to African Americans

    • For a far greater percentage of African Americans than white Americans, the Net is less generative and participatory

    • We’d better make sure that the carriers become device independent and Net neutral

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