Where there is internet, is there more prosperity? Generally speaking, yes.
It costs much more to lay fiber to outlying communities than it does in larger metropolitan areas, which may contribute to the growing geographical discrepancy between income, education and even health care. Some places, like Indiana, hope to bring rural areas up to speed by expanding broadband access. Indiana, for example, is planning a $1 billion infrastructure update.1
Internet access opens the door for opportunities in a variety of areas, including education. Enrollment for online higher education classes is increasing each year, according to the report “Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States.” Most of this enrollment (67.8 percent) is by students attending public institutions, with about half of students also attending on-campus classes. While online educational enrollment is rising swiftly, the number of students studying on a campus dropped by more than 1 million between 2012 and 2016.2
Keeping in touch with friends and the world’s current events is also simplified by internet access. Use of social media websites and apps is widespread among all demographics. According to a Pew Research Center study, while the share of teens using Facebook fell 20 percentage points over three years, a larger share of lower-income teens continue to use Facebook. Sociologists interviewed noted that higher-income teens often seek the prestige of the next “hot” social media platform, whereas lower-income teens continue to rely on Facebook to connect with a diverse network of friends and family.3
Unfortunately, the internet also has become a tool for negativity, particularly when it comes to bullying and misinformation. While social media has done much to establish and strengthen connections among people, it also enables the propagation of cyberbullying, a growing threat for teens and preteens. In 2018, 26 percent of parents reported their child had been a victim of cyberbullying. However, this share has dropped from 34 percent in 2016.4 First Lady Melania Trump has made cyberbullying her primary focus, encouraging adults to provide children with information and tools to develop safe online habits.5
Perhaps one of the most detrimental uses of the internet in recent years has been the spread of misinformation, particularly “fake news” stories that look like legitimate articles but which report inaccurate or fabricated facts and statistics. The problem is exacerbated by social media users who read and believe the stories, then share them with friends and followers.
Worse yet, these fake articles are circulated by bots on Twitter and other websites. A “bot” is an automated account made to look like a human user that is programmed to spread false information. More than 13.6 million Twitter posts shared misinformation linked to bots between May 2016 and March 2017.6
Sadly, people tend to be more interested in dramatized falsehoods than the truth. One researcher found that while true news stories tend to spread to no more than about 1,600 people, shared false stories on the internet tend to reach tens of thousands of readers, even though they originated from far fewer sources.7
Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.
1 Lindsey Erdody. Indiana Business Journal. Sept. 14, 2018. “Broadband blitz to lift economy, study says.” https://www.ibj.com/articles/70471-broadband-blitz-to-lift-economy-study-says. Accessed Oct. 4, 2018.
2 Online Learning Consortium. Jan. 11, 2018. “New Study: Distance Education Up, Overall Enrollments Down.” https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/news_item/new-study-distance-education-overall-enrollments/. Accessed Nov. 30, 2018.
3 Hanna Kozlowska. Quartz.com. Aug. 15, 2018. “Do teens use Facebook? It depends on their family’s income.” https://qz.com/1355827/do-teens-use-facebook-it-depends-on-their-familys-income/. Accessed Nov. 30, 2018.
4 Sam Cook. Comparitech. Nov. 12, 2018. “Cyberbullying facts and statistics for 2016-2018.” https://www.comparitech.com/internet-providers/cyberbullying-statistics/. Accessed Nov. 30, 2018.
5 Jordyn Phelps. ABC News. Aug. 20, 2018. “First lady Melania Trump speaks out against cyberbullying.” https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/lady-melania-trump-speaks-cyberbullying/story?id=57284988. Accessed Nov. 30, 2018.
6 Maria Temming. Science News. Nov. 20, 2018. “How Twitter bots get people to spread fake news.” https://www.sciencenews.org/article/twitter-bots-fake-news-2016-election. Accessed Nov. 30, 2018.
7 Maria Temming. Science News. March 8, 2018. “On Twitter, the lure of fake news is stronger than the truth.” https://www.sciencenews.org/article/twitter-fake-news-truth. Accessed Nov. 30, 2018.
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