Emerging countries say Internet bad for morality, study finds
Many people in developing countries think the Internet has a positive influence on education and a negative influence on morality, according to a report released Thursday from the Pew Research Center.
Pew interviewed more than 36,000 people in 32 emerging and developing countries for the study and asked questions about their individual Internet and cellphone usage.
The majority of users, 64%, said the Internet has a positive influence on education. However, 42% also thought the Internet was bad for morality, with only 29% saying the Internet is a good influence.
Peoples definition of morality differs from country to country, according to Randall Curren, professor of philosophy at University of Rochester.
“It’s natural for adults to worry about their children’s morality,” Curren said. “There are certain spheres of interaction and influence that are beyond parents control, and the Internet is a new sphere for many cultures. It’s this new exchange of information and images that parents themselves don’t have easy control over.”
Many may also see the Internet as a tool that furthers “the sexualization of childhood,” according to Curren.
Across the 32 countries surveyed, a median of 38% said they have a working computer in their homes. It ranged from a high of 78% in Russia to 3% in Uganda. In comparison, 80% of U.S. adults have a household computer.
The study found that people who speak English are more likely to use the Internet. Internet usage is also higher among the well-educated and young people ages 18 to 34.
For example, 83% of Vietnamese who can speak or read at least some English use the Internet, compared with only 20% of those who cannot. A similar gap exists between age groups in Vietnam with 70% of 18-34-year-olds using the Internet and only 21% of those 35 and older.
“We knew that younger, more educated people are more likely to use the Internet but we were surprised that English speakers are more likely,” Jacob Poushter, a researcher at Pew, said.
Rates of Internet use was also higher in wealthier countries, the study found.
The majority, 86%, of adult Internet-users in developing countries use the Web for socializing with family and friends and about half, 54%, said they use it for consuming information about politics.
As countries become richer and gain greater access to the Internet, it’s expected they will become more similar to “countries like the USA with their social networking use and access to the Internet,” according to Poushter.
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