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Internet knowledge among families in multicultural Vancouver : is there a generation gap? Huang, Yan

Abstract

The digital divide is not merely a matter of computer ownership and Internet access. Rather, it is a multi-dimensional problem concerning equality, opportunity and participation. Having knowledge about the Internet reinforces effective use of it. However, little is known about the distribution of Internet knowledge throughout society. Teenagers are revealed to be the most frequent Internet users. Do they know more about the Internet than their parents? In Canadian families, who knows most about the Internet - fathers? Mothers? Teenagers? What about English, Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking nuclear families? What variables determine Internet knowledge? This study was designed to investigate the distribution of Internet knowledge in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese-speaking families. English and Chinese versions of the Internet Quiz were administered to 114 families resident in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The Quiz was a reliable and valid index of Internet knowledge. To be eligible for inclusion in this study, there had to be at least one parent and one child aged 12 to 19 years in the family and completed the Quiz. Data were analyzed with SPSS. Internet knowledge scores were calculated and various comparisons were made between groups and within families. Altogether, 182 parents and 147 teenagers participated in this study. Overall, there was no wide Internet knowledge divide between parents and children. Fathers knew most about the Internet in families. Internet knowledge was not evenly distributed across English, Mandarin, and Cantonese-speaking groups. And the patterns of Internet knowledge generation gap were dissimilar in the three language speaking families. For children, the best predictors of Internet knowledge was socio-economic status (SES), gender and mothers' education, but for parents, the best predictors were language and education along with SES. There were many knowledgeable but "uneducated" respondents. In future research, it would be desirable to use qualitative methodologies or observations to investigate how people acquire Internet knowledge. Moreover, the Internet Quiz measured a tiny part of Internet knowledge, and the findings here may suffer from restriction of range. Future research can create extended and refined instruments and include more families to further investigate distributions of Internet knowledge and influence of the Internet on family life.

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