President Bill Clinton garnered much news coverage in 1998, as he became only the second United States President to be impeached by the House of Representatives. Other notable world events included the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Economics to Amartya Sen, the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and the Great Pager Blackout, which revealed challenges to the mass use of satellite communications.
Just as first-year college students were completing the 1998 CIRP Survey, Apple Computers introduced the iMac, a new all-in-one computer that served as an important precursor to the iPod and iPhone. Windows98 was released for general use after years in development, and two graduate students—Sergey Brin and Larry Page—were busy starting a technology company called Google.
Updates to the 1998 CIRP Freshman Survey reflected the rapid advancements in technology, particularly the World Wide Web, and the emergence of the “dotcom” era. With internet usage increasing and students gaining access at school and at home, the 1998 CIRP Freshman Survey added several items to measure computer and internet usage.
The CIRP asked students how frequently they had engaged in the following activities as high school seniors:
- Communicated via e-mail
- Used the Internet for research or homework
- Participated in internet chat rooms
- Played computer games
- Other internet use
By 1998, a strong majority of incoming students reported that they “frequently” or “occasionally” played computer games (80.4%) and also that they used the internet for research or homework (82.9%). However, a smaller percentage (65.9%) indicated that they communicated via e-mail or participated in internet chat rooms (54.2%) while in high school. Thus, at the dawn of when CIRP first started asking students about their internet usage, a greater percentage of students were using it to do their homework or play games rather than to communicate via e-mail or chat rooms.
As the internet was emerging as a resource with significant content and as a platform to communicate with others, questions arose as to who should govern it and how it should be regulated. The CIRP not only introduced items to measure students’ computer and internet usage, the survey also included a question inquiring about students’ views on how the internet should be regulated. Specifically, the survey asked the extent to which students agree or disagree that “Material on the internet should be regulated by the government.”
In the fall of 1998, 43.2% of incoming college students agreed or strongly agreed that the government should regulate material on the internet. While this question was only asked in 1998 and 1999, debates about regulation and censorship continue to be waged as the internet continues to play an increasing role in our daily lives. However, in 1998, the CIRP Freshman Survey recognized the important role the internet occupied in students’ academic and social experiences and their expectations for college.
DID YOU KNOW?
19.3% of students frequently played a musical instrument
46.9% had not at all visited an art gallery or museum in the past year
62.9% frequently or occasionally read the editorial page in the newspaper in the past year
21.3% graduated from a high school that required community service
46.6% of students completed at least one year of computer science coursework in high school