Net scores over TV as info source: study

NEW YORK : More Americans today consider the Internet more important a source of source of information than television or print publicaitons, but fewer believe all they read online.

A UCLA survey commissioned in mid 2002, has thrown up the finding that Internet users are spending more time online, averaging 11 hours per week, up by more than an hour from a year earlier. The third annual nationwide telephone survey of 2000 households determined that only 53 per cent of users believe all they read online, down from 58 percent a year earlier. 

The survey, released recently by the Center for Communication Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, had a quarter of the respondents expressing concern about using credit cards over the Internet. Beau Brendler, director of the nonprofit Consumer WebWatch online credibility project, considers the increased skepticism good for consumers, but bad for Web sites."It should be a potent signal to Web sites that they should do a better job ensuring that information is credible and Web sites are safe and secure."

The survey was conducted in English and Spanish from April to June last year and included follow-up interviews with respondents to previous UCLA Internet studies. Among its chief findings, the survey noted that about 61 per cent of Internet users find the Net "very" or "extremely" important as an information source, compared with 60 per cent for books and 58 per cent for newspapers.

While the most experienced users overwhelmingly find the Net an important source, newcomers to the web consider books, newspapers and television more important than the Net. 

The survey also found that nearly 30 per cent of Americans do not use the Net, most commonly because they don't have a computer or one good enough. But nearly half the nonusers say they are likely to go online within a year. The Internet could also be cutting into television viewing time, with Internet users watching 11 hours per week of TV, or one hour less than in 2001. Internet users also average five hours less of TV each week than nonusers. Interestingly, nearly 37 per cent of parents say they have punished their kids by denying them access to the Internet, while 46 per cent of parents have used television as a similar punitive tool.

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