EAST LANSING, Mich., July 28 (AScribe Newswire) -- Internet use has no negative effect on users' social involvement or psychological well-being, and it increases children's grade point averages and standardized test scores, Michigan State University research shows.
HomeNetToo is a research project designed to study how low-income families use the Internet at home. In particular, the researchers are interested in what makes people use the Internet and what effects its use has on people.
"We found no evidence that using the Internet at home reduces social contacts or undermines communication with family or friends," said Linda A. Jackson, professor of psychology at MSU and a principal investigator on the recently completed three-year study. "Adult participants who used the Internet more were no more likely to communicate less with family and friends, participate in social groups, become depressed or to experience hassles or stress due to time conflicts than those who used it less, or not at all."
The researchers were most excited by their findings related to children.
"HomeNetToo children who spent more time online using the Web performed better in school after one year than those who spent less time online," Jackson said. "It appears that the text-based nature of most Web pages is causing children to read more, resulting in improvements in grade point averages and performance on standardized tests of reading achievement."
Other questions addressed in the HomeNetToo project concern the effects of interface design on learning. The researchers examined how the design of Web pages makes it easier or more difficult for low-income families to understand and remember their content. Their study focused on health information, in particular on content about high-blood pressure, a serious problem in the African American community.
Working with MSU's Media Interface and Networking Design (MIND) laboratory, they created interfaces adapted to users' preferred mode of processing information. Experiments were are used to examine whether learning information about high blood pressure is easier with user-adapted interfaces than with the standard "magazine-style" Web page interface.
"Culturally adapted interfaces resulted in more favorable attitudes than the typical magazine-style interface," said Frank Biocca, Ameritech professor of telecommunication at MSU and director of the MIND Lab. "Learning was enhanced when interface adaptation matched the users' cognitive style."
Participants in the HomeNetToo project were 90 low-income families given home computers and Internet service, and provided with informal instruction and in-home technical support for 16 months. Most participants had little or no experience using computers or the Internet prior to their participation in the project. Many now have considerable computer and Internet skills.
Families were recruited from Dwight Rich Middle School and Black Child and Family Institute, both in Lansing, Mich. The sample consisted of about 120 adults and 140 children, mostly African Americans. The average age of parent participants was 38; the average age of the child participants was 13; and nearly half the families reported household incomes of less than $15,000 a year.
An additional 160 African American adults were recruited at churches and community centers in Detroit to participate in the interface design experiments.
The HomeNetToo project was funded by the National Science Foundation. More information is available at the project's Web site at www.homenettoo.org
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Last updated: 07/29/2003 - 11:28 PM