Descriptive Summary of the Sample
Adoption of the Internet by households. Of the sample, 498 responded that they had computers at home, a computer penetration rate of 57.3%. Of the 498 computer households, 342 (68.9%) had connected to the Internet, which accounted for 39.4% of the sample. According to official statistics, there is only one Internet Service Provider (ISP) 4 which provides 56K and broadband connections for individual users in Macao.
Users and non-users. Thirty-eight percent of the total answered that they were using the Internet, while 62% were not. Of the non-users, 28% answered they would (4.6% definitely and 23.4% probably) use the Internet in the coming year, while 72% answered that they would not use (52.3%) or did not know how to use the Internet (19.7%).
Years of Internet use. Among all respondents, 39.1% had used the Internet for less than one year, 27.9% within one to two years, 15.6% within two to three years, 8.7% within three to four years and for more than four years respectively. Overall, the more experience users had with the Internet, the more time they spent online, except that those with two to three years of experience spent slightly less time. Those with more than four years of Internet use spent more than 3.7 times as much time (25 hours per week) as those with less than one year of experience (6.8 hours per week).
Time of Internet use by location. Most users used the Internet at home (78.9%), in the workplace or at school (45.8%) and at other places (29.4%) such as friends' homes, net-cafés or public libraries. The average weekly Internet connection time was 11 hours. Users spent 6.3 hours per week at home, 3.5 hours at the workplace or school, and 1.1 hours at other places.
Time spent with other media. Watching television was the common and most frequently adopted media habit for both Internet users (2.25 hours per day) and non-users (2.43 hours per day). Internet users spent significantly more time (0.3 hours each day) than non-users (0.11 hours each day) in reading magazines. Both users and non-users spent roughly the same amount of time (about one hour) in reading newspapers and listening to radio, and doing exercise (0.44 vs. 0.49 hours) each day. Likewise, they spent more or less the same amount of time on family functioning (1.41 vs. 1.54 hours) per day.
Information sought by Internet users. Internet users mostly read news (61.8%) on the Web. The second category of information most frequently viewed was entertainment information (51.9%), followed by education (30.7%), other (28.8%), sports (17.2%), travel (8.6%), shopping (7.1%), health (5.1%), food and beverage (3.7%), and information for adults (2.1%).
Time spent on Internet activities. Among five popular Internet activities, searching for information on the Web was the most frequently adopted activity for Internet users, accounting for 2.2 hours per week. Chatting, including ICQ, BBS, chat rooms or forums, ranked second (2 hours), followed by reading news (1.5 hours), use of e-mail (1.3 hours) and playing games (0.7 hours).
Use of e-mail. Of the Internet users, 71.5% used e-mail as their communication tool. Of the e-mail users, 29% checked their e-mail once a day, 27.8% several times a week and 22.3% once a week. Twelve percent checked their e-mail several times a day, while 5.6% did it less than once a week. E-mail was checked every hour or more frequently by 3.2%.
For e-mail users, friends were their most frequent contact persons, followed by colleagues, classmates or relevant persons. Family members or relatives were the least frequent contact persons via e-mail.
Use of chat room, ICQ, forum or BBS. Of the Internet users, more than half (51.1%) had experience in either posting messages or viewing messages in chat room, ICQ, forum or BBS. For those who involved themselves in this communication activity, 17% always posted messages, 45% sometimes posted messages and sometimes just viewed messages, and 37.9% viewed messages but never posted.
Demographics. Of the 868 respondents providing completed interviews, 44.5% were male and 55.5% were female. With respect to gender, 34.6% of women were users while 65.4 were non-users. In terms of age, the younger the respondents, the greater the likelihood that they were users. For example, 76.5% of those with ages between 15 and 24 were users, while only 23.5% were non-users. As far as income is concerned, the higher the income level, the higher the proportion of respondents who used the Internet, except for those with incomes between $24,001 and $30,000. As for education, in general, respondents of a higher educational level were more likely to use the Internet. Those with a very high level of education used the Internet frequently. For instance, 83.3% of the users were postgraduates and 87.9% undergraduates. With regard to occupation, respondents requiring more knowledge in their work were more likely to be Internet users. It is not surprising to note that there are a dominant proportion of Internet users in the groups of students (80.9%) and civil servants (74.4%). Professionals and clerical workers also had substantial ratios of Internet users: 60.2% and 69.7% respectively.
Differences between Users and Non-users
Our first research question was whether there are differences between Internet users and non-users in terms of their demographics, media use, family functioning, assessments of media credibility, and perceived values of the Internet. Table 2 contains the results of the t-test comparisons of Internet users and non-users with respect to these aspects.
Table 2. T-Test comparison of Internet users and non-users.
Demographics. It was found that there were significant differences between users and non-users on all demographic variables. Users were found more likely to be male (t=−2.29, p < .05), younger (t=−16.97, p < .001), better educated (t= 17.67, p < .001) and with higher household income (t= 10.52, p < .001) than non-users. Thus, Hypothesis 1 was supported.
Media use. Results showed that users were significantly different from non-users in terms of magazine reading (t= 3.48, p < .001). While using the Internet, there were more users than non-users who were also reading magazines. No significant differences were found between users and non-users in terms of television viewing, radio listening, newspaper reading and doing exercise.
Family functioning. Significant differences were found between users and non-users in terms of having meals with family members at home (t=−4.56, p < .001) and watching television with family members (t=−2.45, p < .05). Users tended to practice these two activities less frequently with their family members than non-users. Users did not differ significantly from non-users in terms of chatting and shopping or going out with family members.
Assessments of media credibility. Results indicated that there was a significant difference between users and non-users when they rated the local media credibility. Users had less confidence than non-users in newspapers (t=−2.91, p < .001), television (t=−4.37, p < .001), radio (t=−4.41, p < .001) and Web sites (t=−2.13, p < .05).
Perceived values of the Internet. It was found that both users and non-users had no significant differences when they perceived the Internet as having a negative impact. However, users were found to regard the Internet as significantly greater than non-users did in terms of its effectiveness in learning and communication (t= 5.32, p < .001). Moreover, there was a significant difference between users and non-users when they perceived that using the Internet would be more novel (t=−6.68, p < .001). Users perceived the value of novelty to a lesser degree than non-users did.
Prediction of Internet Use
Table 3 contains the results of correlation analysis and hierarchical regression analysis.
Table 3. Hierarchical regression analysis of demographics, assessments of media credibility, family functioning, media use and perceived values of the Internet on Internet use.
Results indicated that media use had a weak relationship with Internet use. Only doing exercise was positively related to Internet use (r= .114, p < .05): Those who exercise more would use the Internet more. No significant correlations were found between Internet use and television viewing, radio listening, newspaper reading or magazine reading. Thus, H2e was supported, whereas H2a, H2b, H2c, and H2d were rejected.
Hypothesis 3 proposed that Internet use is positively related to the users' assessments of the credibility of the Internet. Our findings indicated that there was no significant relation between the two. Therefore, H3 was rejected.
Hypothesis 4 assumes that Internet use is negatively related to family functioning. It was found that having meals (r=−.129, p < .01) and watching television (r=−.12, p < .05) with family members at home had a significant negative relationship with Internet use. This suggested that the more time the Internet users spent on the Internet, the less frequently they had meals and watched television with their family members. However, results showed that there was no significant correlation between Internet use and family chatting as well as shopping or going out. Therefore, H4 was partially supported.
Hypothesis 5 proposed that the higher perceived values respondents attached to the Internet, the more they would use the Internet. It was found that only the perceived effectiveness of the Internet was positively related to Internet use (r= .107, p < .05), suggesting that the greater effective functions of the Internet as a learning and communication medium the users perceive, the more time they will spend on the Internet. No significant correlation was found in the perceived values of negative impact and novelty. Thus, H5 was partially supported.
Research Question 2 explored the relative influence of demographics, assessments of media credibility, family functioning, media use, and perceived values of the Internet in predicting Internet use. A hierarchical regression was conducted in order to isolate the contribution of perceived values of the Internet. Demographics, assessments of media credibility, family functioning, media use, and perceived values of the Internet were entered into the equation as separate blocks. The results are presented in Table 3.
Five demographic variables were entered as the first block, of which three were significant predictors of Internet use. Gender was positively related to Internet use (Beta= .171, p < .01), meaning that male respondents tended to use the Internet more. Monthly household income was also positively linked to Internet use (Beta= .098, p < .10). Thus higher income should lead to greater Internet use. The results were also similar for education (Beta= .233, p < .001), indicating that better educated people would use the Internet more. However, age was not found to be a significant predictor. This suggested that those spent more time on the Internet might not only be younger people. More Internet use was affordable by those men with a higher level of education and higher monthly income. The first block alone accounted for 10.6% of the total variance (see Table 3).
Assessments of media credibility, including four variables, was then entered as the second block. None of the four variables was significantly related to Internet use. This block accounted for 1.2% of the total variance (see Table 3).
The third block, family functioning, including four variables, yielded a 1.6% change in R square. However, there were no significant relationships between these four variables and Internet use.
Similar to the third block, the fourth block, media use, also yielded the same contribution to the equation (1.6% change in R square). The contribution mainly came from doing exercise (Beta= .116, p < .05), indicating that doing exercise was a significant predictor. This suggested that the more the respondents used the Internet, the more likely they tended to be energetic or concerned with health.
The last block, perceived values of the Internet, with three variables, contributed only 0.5% of the total variance. No significant relationships were found between the three variables and Internet use. The equation explained 16% of the variance in total.