A new survey to be released today shows that students with home internet access are becoming increasingly disappointed with their online experience at school. As today’s youth continue to embrace the internet, their rising expectations for school connectivity have resulted in a near-doubling of dissatisfaction in school internet access among nine- to 17-year olds since 2000, the survey’s authors say.

“Children, Families, and the Internet 2003,” produced by market research firm Grunwald Associates, used a combination of online and telephone surveys to poll thousands of American children ages 6 to 17 and parents of children ages 2 to 17 about their internet habits, attitudes, and interests. When students go online from school, researchers found, many are disappointed in the experience.

Despite figures from the National Center for Education Statistics suggesting that 94 percent of schools now connect to the internet using broadband, a whopping 76 percent of kids with broadband internet access at home say their home connection is faster than their school connection, according to the survey. Even a majority (62 percent) of students with dial-up modem connections from home perceive their home connections to be about the same or faster than their school connections.

Both kids ages 6-17 and their parents also expressed rising levels of frustration with the amount of time students are getting online at school. Nearly half of kids with home internet access (49 percent) and more than a third of their parents (34 percent) say kids are getting “too little time online” in their schools, the study says.

This represents a doubling of dissatisfaction among parents of nine- to 17-year olds and a near-doubling on the part of their children since 2000, according to the survey. In 2000 only 27 percent of nine- to 17-year olds thought they were getting too little time online in school, compared with nearly half today, while the percentage of parents of nine- to 17-year olds who are dissatisfied with their kids’ online time has risen from 17 percent to 34 percent in that time.

“I think it’s pretty clear that while national connectivity initiatives have had an impact, they haven’t the ubiquitous connectivity that some national policy makers assume,” said Peter Grunwald, president of Grunwald Associates, in an interview with eSchool News. “Students’ real experience using the ‘net is very different than the image painted by some of the superficial data that are out there.”

One reason for students’ disappointment is that many school networks still have trouble dealing with contention, Grunwald said. Put another way, school networks often can’t handle many simultaneous users.

But infrastructure is only part of the story, Grunwald added: “Even more important is educators’ ability to thoughtfully integrate technology into instruction–and, of course, the content [provided by] internet services themselves is important. All of these need work.”

As students spend more and more time online, they are becoming “increasingly sophisticated about how they use the medium in every way,” said Tom de Boor, principal analyst for the survey.

For example, more than 2 million United States children ages 6 to 17 now have their own personal web site, the study shows. This figure represents about 10 percent of the 23 million kids in the U.S. with home internet access today–a threefold increase since 2000, according to the survey.

Four out of every 10 children online from home say they either have or plan to build their own web site. With the majority of kid site planners saying they’ll build within the next year or sooner, researchers project that more than 6 million American children–or more than one in four of kids online from home–will have their own personal web site by 2005.

The group of children who have or plan to build their own personal web site includes 44 percent of 13- to 17-year olds and even a third (32 percent) of six- to eight-year olds. The study further reveals that girls are significantly more likely than boys to have their own web site: 12.2 percent of girls online from home have a personal web site today, compared with only 8.6 percent of boys.

“Previous generations of kids wrote earnest poetry or joined rock bands to express themselves,” Grunwald said. “Today’s kids do so by building personal web sites. And they’re hungry for tools to help them build better, more engaging sites and stay in closer touch with friends.”

That girls are significantly more likely than boys to have a web site is consistent with the company’s other surveys, which have found girls to be more interested in the opportunities for self-expression afforded by new technologies, Grunwald added.

“New generations of girls–encouraged by mothers who themselves have been exposed to technology–are much more comfortable with technology than were girls 10 years ago,” he said.

The survey responses have a margin of error between 2 percent and 3 percent, researchers said.


“Children, Families, and the Internet 2003”

National Center for Education Statistics