By John Shmuel
Biz & Tech Editor
If you’re spending hours a day watching YouTube videos and downloading music, you’re not alone — a Ryerson professor’s new report, titled Canada Online!, shows that most students in Canada are doing the same thing.
Charles Zamaria, a radio and television arts professor, says the Internet is quickly becoming the main form of entertainment, social interaction and learning for the majority of us.
“In just three years, there’s been significant increases in how many people have access to the Internet, and the amount of time spent on it,” said Zamaria. “More and more, young people are considering it their main form of interaction and entertainment.”
He added that 95 per cent of university and college students were using the Internet.
“It’s become an essential tool to succeed in post-secondary institutions.”
When it comes to dividing their time on the Internet, 60 per cent of people use it to find information, whether it’s reading the news or looking up facts for an essay. The rest of that time is dedicated strictly for entertainment.
The average person now spends about 17 hours a week online. That still trails behind time spent with traditional media like television and books, which consume about 45 hours a week.
Zamaria, who worked on a similar report in 2004, co-wrote the recent study with Fred Fletcher, Professor Emeritus at York University.
The study was part of the Canadian Internet Project (CIP), which is part of a larger, collaborative effort called the World Internet Project created to study Internet use and trends around the globe.
The two conducted 3,150 interviews to gather the results, with about 400 of those being youth between the ages of 12 and 17. Interviews averaged about 38 minutes for Internet users, and 19 minutes for non-users.
The study found a couple of surprising trends when it came to the Internet and traditional media: heavy Internet users are more likely to spend greater amounts of time viewing traditional media than light or non-users, contradicting the idea that the Internet is replacing traditional forms of media.
The study did discover however that overall, consumption of traditional media was down by about 10 per cent among Canadians compared to 2004. There was no difference between the decline among internet users and non-users.
“The numbers show that the internet, at least for the moment, is supplementing traditional media, not replacing it,” he said.
The traditional media decrease accompanied a 30 per cent increase in time spent on a computer.
Hainii Huang, a third year arts student, says that the internet is the main, and for the most part only, form of media she has time for.
“I don’t watch T.V. at all. I usually like to draw, excercise; things like that.”
She added that she devotes about five hours to the Internet a day, and preferred to read online over reading books.
Another myth the report put to rest was the idea that the Internet interfered with the amount of time people spent with their families.
According to the study, heavy internet users were more likely to spend more time with family (about 18 hours a week) and friends (9.3 hours) than casual users.
“It was interesting to see that the two could co-exist — large amounts of time invested in Internet use didn’t necessarily translate to becoming alienated from friends and family.”
Zamaria points out that attitudes toward what the Internet is have also changed since 2004, and will probably change again in 2010 when he hopes to release his next study.
“The Internet is no longer seen as just another form of media anymore,” he says. “It’s now become a destination itself.”
— with files from Marina Stojkovic