I have been reading ‘Everyday life, online: U.S. college students’ use of the internet‘ by Jones, Johnson-Yale, Millermainer and Perez (2009).

The study looked at understanding how college students in the United States use the internet compared to the results of research undertaken in 2002. The research methods used were a mix of quantitive and qualitative – survey, observation and interviews.

In comparison to my previous post regarding the Jernigan and Mistree (2009) study the varied methodologies used uncovered more (maybe) than quantitive research would have done alone.

Despite this I had to question the firsthand observations as a way of getting ‘under the skin’ of what college kids do online. JonesJohnson-Yale, Millermainer and Perez (2009) state that the observations were made in public places (on different days and at different times) where students hooked up to the web. Yet the questionnaire results stated that 66% of respondents used the computer in their dorm room / apartment the most. Therefore was what the students were surfing outside of their bedrooms representative of their total time online?

In addition the observations monitored how groups of students gathered around ‘public’ computers to look at Facebook and MySpace profiles for example – as entertainment.

I argue that the lack of privacy (and potentially the blocking of some websites on college computers) limited what the students did and didn’t look at in open view – certainly compared to what they may choose to indulge in viewing behind closed doors. The students revealed through the surveys that they did view adult websites, engage in file sharing and pay bills online for example – probably not websites appropriate for consumption in public.

Therefore although the observations have identified some interesting phenomena such as social network(ing) sites as a form of group ‘event’ for the college students, it remains to be seen how truly representative they are in comparison to the results of the interviews and surveys conducted.

Image c/o twenty_questions licensed under Creative Commons.