Children's Home Internet Use
Antecedents and Psychological, Social,
and Academic Consequences
Linda A. Jackson
Alexander von Eye
Frank A. Biocca
The HomeNetToo project (2000–2003) is a longitudinal field study of the antecedents and consequences of home Internet use in low-income families (NSF-ITR 085348; http://www.msu.edu/ user/jackso67/homenettoo). Three objectives guided the design of the project. The first was to identify psychological and social factors that may contribute to the digital divide in Internet use. The second objective was to examine the psychological and social effects of using the Internet at home. The third objective was to determine whether home Internet use influenced academic performance. The focus was on African Americans because evidence indicates a persistent racial divide in Internet use. Using a longitudinal design, we obtained repeated measures of key psychological and social constructs, as well as multiple measures of Internet use that were automatically recorded (daily) for 16 months. Thus, the design permitted an evaluation of cause–effect relationships and fine-grained analyses of Internet use based on measures less susceptible to social desirability and recall biases than self-reported measures of Internet use.
Participants in the HomeNetToo project were 120 adults and 140 children who were living in a midsized urban community in the Midwestern United States. Adult participants were recruited at meetings held at their child's middle school and at the Black Child and Family Institute in Lansing, Michigan. Requirements for participation were that the child be eligible for the federally subsidized school lunch program, that the family had had a working telephone line for the previous 6 months, and that the family had never had home Internet access. Participants agreed to have their Internet use automatically and continuously recorded, to complete surveys at multiple points during the project, and to participate in home visits. In exchange for participation, families received home computers, Internet access, and in-home technical support during the Internet recording period (16 months).
Most of the HomeNetToo children were African American (83%), male (58%), and living in singleparent households (75%) in which the median annual income was $15,000 (USD). The average age was 13 years. We begin this chapter by examining the frequency and nature of HomeNetToo children's home Internet use. Next, we examine potential antecedents of these childrens’ Internet use; namely, personal characteristics (e.g., race, computer skills) and situational factors (e.g., computer use by family and friends) that we expected to influence Internet use. Although previous research has considered demographic predictors of Internet use,