All FSI Publications Journal Articles China Agricultural Economic Review

The Impact of Internet Use on Adolescent Learning Outcomes: Evidence from Rural China

Internet use has become particularly prevalent among adolescents, prompting much thought and concern about both its potential benefits and adverse effects on adolescent learning outcomes. Much of the empirical literature on the impact of Internet use on adolescent learning outcomes is mixed, and few studies examine the causal relationship between the two in rural China. In order to bridge these gaps, we use empirical analysis to investigate the effect of Internet use on the learning outcomes of adolescents in rural China.

We use fixed effect models with samples drawn from a large nationally representative dataset (the China Family Panel Studies—CFPS) to identify the causal impacts of Internet use on the learning outcomes of three cohorts (Cohort A (N = 540), Cohort B (N = 287) and Cohort C (N = 827)) of adolescents in rural China.

The results of the descriptive analysis show a continued increase in the number of adolescents accessing the Internet and the amount of time they spend online. The results of the fixed effect models show that Internet use has positive (in many of the analyses), but mostly insignificant impacts, on the learning outcomes of adolescents. In the sets of results that find significant associations between Internet use and learning outcomes, the measured effects are moderate.

This study investigates the causal relationship between Internet use and adolescent learning outcomes in rural China. The findings claim that there is not a great need to worry about adverse effects of Internet use on adolescent learning development. Attention, however, should focus on seeking ways to improve the positive effects of the Internet use on adolescent learning outcomes. The study will provide a reference and experience for the development of education and the Internet in rural areas and promote the integrated development of urban and rural areas in China.

February 12, 2021