Caught in the Web

This PowerPoint presentation looks at young people’s use of the Internet to solve their civil or social justice problems.A 2010 Civil and Social Justice Panel Survey (CSJPS) examining people’s experiences with the web and problems involving rights had limited results, so an online experiment was devised targeting teenagers, university students, and vulnerable young adults in the UK. The goal of the study was to identify what Internet search behaviours or Internet content was interfering with legal self-help. The findings of the survey showed that most participants had Internet access but didn’t use it successfully to solve legal issues. Results showed that participants were lacking in knowledge of rights, specifically tenant and employment rights and that they typically spent less than 1 minute on a webpage and usually less than 10 minutes for a search. Higher education was linked to greater search success, but very few participants paid attention to jurisdictional relevance of websites. Search typology showed users typed in search questions rather than keywords, toggled between sites, and rarely used search boxes within sites. Participants didn’t discriminate between trustworthiness of sites. The author found that most didn’t go beyond one page of results, typically choosing the first site in the search results and avoiding sites with paid-for advertising.

The study showed that increased knowledge of rights doesn’t always translate to appropriate action nor does it give respondents confidence to deal with legal problems on their own. Most participants would choose family, friends, and a legal adviser to help them instead. The results have implications for PLE and self-help services – use of the Internet for young vulnerable demographics should not be overestimated and even the best designed websites aren’t clicked on if they are not first in the search results.Providers must be wary of adopting a “digital by default” policy in the future delivery of legal education and advice.