Abstract - The Information Society 19(2)

Public Internet Access for Young Children in the Inner City: Evidence to Inform Access Subsidy and Content Regulation

Christian Sandvig


Significant US policy initiatives in the late 1990s were intended to control Internet access, privacy, and indecency—specifically among children. This study reflects on these using quantitative data from a computer center in a children’s library in the inner city. Researchers gathered sixteen weeks of page requests (N = 203,647) using “click stream” and behavioral data, and analyzed these using nonparametric tests. Findings show that users are highly influenced by each other and browse only a small universe of sites. Game playing and communicating with individuals (via email and chat) were the most popular uses. Children were uninterested in pornography and sites directed toward children. Advertising was extremely common. Children were most likely to engage in sharing when using games and chat. For this population, each of these public policy initiatives to control Internet use fails to achieve its stated goals, yet activities that encourage sharing in public places hold some promise for building computer knowledge.

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