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Study: Internet use and social and civic participation

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2003 to 2007

Canadian Internet users tend to have large personal networks and frequent interactions with friends and family, although they tend to spend less time face-to-face with others, and more time online.

Many are using the World Wide Web in ways that facilitate social and civic participation, such as making contact with others and finding out about their communities.

Internet users, particularly those who spend more than one hour online per day, spend less time on traditional social activities, including time with family members and socializing over meals. However, they are at least as socially engaged as non-users.

For example, Canadians who spend more than one hour online per day spend, on average, nearly two hours more time alone than Internet non-users. Yet, nearly one-half of Internet users' time online is spent emailing or chatting with others. In addition, Internet users spend more time talking on the phone than non-users.

In recent years, the Internet has also become a resource for telephone contact. In 2007, nearly 10% of home Internet users and more than one-quarter of recent immigrants who used the Internet from home made telephone calls online.

One-half of home Internet users aged 16 and over contacted others through instant messaging, and one-fifth contributed content online by blogging, posting images or participating in discussion groups in 2007. These activities were most common among young Canadians.

In addition, more than 4 in 10 home Internet users said they went online to research community events. This activity was particularly popular among university-educated and urban Canadians.

Canadians also used the Internet to connect with political and social issues. In 2005, just over one-half of home Internet users aged 18 and over reported that they read online newspapers or magazines about a particular social or political issue.

Further, 29% of home Internet users said they went online to read what other Canadians think about political or social issues and 14% said they used the Internet to correspond with other Canadians about these issues.

Overall, 19.2 million Canadians went online for personal non-business reasons in 2007, representing 73% of the population aged 16 and older.

Note: The study, "How Canadians' use of the Internet affects social life and civic participation," published in the Connectedness Series, assesses how Internet use is changing the way Canadians interact and participate in social and community activities. It also examines how different socio-demographic groups, including rural Canadians, older Canadians and recent immigrants, are using the Internet to enhance social contact and traditional social activities. Data came from five Statistics Canada surveys, as well as the Connected Lives study conducted by NetLab at the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Data also came from a series of interviews NetLab conducted in the East York area of Toronto and in Chapleau, Ontario, between 2004 and 2006.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers, including related surveys, 4406, 4430, 4432, 4503 and 5024.

The study, "How Canadians' use of the Internet affects social life and civic participation," 2003 to 2007, which is part of the Connectedness Series (56F0004MWE2008016, free), is now available. From the Publications module of our website under All subjects, select Information and communications technology.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Ben Veenhof (613-951-5067;, Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division.