Who Is behind That Screen? Solving the Puzzle of Within-Home Computer Sharing among Household Members


The number of US households with access to computers at home has continued to grow. According to the 2011 Computer and Internet Use report published by US department of Commerce, 77% of US homes have computers in their home, compared to 62% in 2003. Many households, however, do not have multiple computers dedicated to each member living in the house. As such, sharing of computers amongst household members can be a prevalent phenomenon in home computer usage. Understanding this within-house computer sharing phenomenon and identifying the mostly likely person behind the computer screen can be of interest to market researchers and practitioners, particularly those interested in studying effective ways to target online ads based on users, online activities. For survey researchers who are attempting to recruit hard-to-reach individuals like teens and young adults, understanding of computer sharing could help establish contact at times when those individuals are more likely to be behind the computer. Despite its prevalence, within-house computer sharing has barely received any research attention. This study hopes to break through the barriers preventing the light of scientific inquiry into this phenomenon.

In this study, using survey data from a probability based online panel, we examine patterns of computer sharing among household members and their relationships with various online activities such as website visitations and social media access. We found that the depth of computer sharing, as measured by number of shared users in a home, manifests in different online behaviors at person and household levels. Further, as expected, depth of computer sharing was associated with higher concern for privacy in social media access. The study findings will likely have important implications for targeted online surveys, market research studies, and multi-level recruitment (household and then member) in online surveys. We discuss the findings and conclude with recommendations for future research.

Recommended Citation:

Luo, T., & Rao, K. (2014). Who Is behind That Screen? Solving the Puzzle of Within-Home Computer Sharing among Household Members. Paper presented at the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Anaheim, CA.

Attached Documents:

  • AAPOR 2015 Program (see page #162 for the mention)
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