A Sociologist Says Students Aren’t So Web-Wise After All

Catherine Rampell:

Eszter Hargittai, an assistant professor in Northwestern University’s sociology department, has discovered that students aren’t nearly as Web-savvy as they, or their elders, assume.
Ms. Hargittai studies the technological fluency of college freshmen. She found that they lack a basic understanding of such terms as BCC (blind copy on e-mail), podcasting, and phishing. This spring she will start a national poster-and-video contest to promote Web-related skills.
Q. Why do people think young people are so Web-wise?
A. I think the assumption is that if it was available from a young age for them, then they can use it better. Also, the people who tend to comment about technology use tend to be either academics or journalists or techies, and these three groups tend to understand some of these new developments better than the average person. Ask your average 18-year-old: Does he know what RSS means? And he won’t.
Q. What demographic groups are less Web-savvy?
A. Women, students of Hispanic origin, African-American students, and students whose parents have lower levels of education, which is a proxy for socioeconomic status.