Wired in: COVID-19 has affected students’ internet usage

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Since March of this year, students have been isolated in their houses and quarantined from others. Throughout this new experience, students have come up with new ways to connect with their friends, family, and lessons for school. However, how has this pandemic actually changed students’ internet usage, and has it been for the better, or for the worse? 

Of course, we are all using electronics more. Before the COVID-19 lockdown, I would have never spent over a few hours on electronics. But now, I can spend nearly eight hours on school and personal devices, without even noticing. Zoom, the app we all know and love, had 10 million users in December of 2019 but surged to 300 million (users) in April of 2020. Other competing companies have also seen exponential growth: “We are now adding roughly 3 million new users each day,” says Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai. Even products we use at Glenbard West have seen a massive spike, with Schoology seeing a 400% increase in its users, supporting over 10 million students with their online needs.

Students must also stay connected with their clubs. Personally, all of the clubs I have joined this year use Zoom and Schoology to reach students and have meetings. However, all activities are now different; some extracurricular activities are participating in socially distanced practices and events. 

Students are also finding new ways to connect with their friends. Indie games such as “Among Us” and “Fall Guys” exploded in popularity, as well as known companies such as Nintendo. Their new game “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” sold 13.5 million units since its release date in March. This game shot up in popularity because students have run out of things to do; there are only so many puzzles to put together or television programs to binge. This explains the nearly 70% increase in adolescent related app traffic since the beginning of the shutdown.

Students are adapting to finding new forms of entertainment during the shutdown. Since movie theaters have been closed for the last few months (or reopened with a limited number of guests), many movies set to release have either been pushed back or are being released online. Mulan (2020) and The King of Staten Island are examples of movies released online instead of in theaters. According to a report by Sandvine, Netflix truly does “dominate the internet,” and is currently responsible for 15% of all internet traffic, while Amazon Prime takes up around 4%. Another form of entertainment students have invested in is YouTube, as that takes up over 11% of internet traffic. I personally have spent a little too much time on YouTube the last few months, to say the very least. 

As students continue to use their devices more and more during another spike in cases during the winter, it’s important to use this technology to connect with others. After your Zoom classes and Among Us rounds, remember to message your friends and FaceTime your grandparents. As you hunker down and start to get into a winter mode, don’t hibernate! Stay social, and stay connected to your friends and family, even if it means using technology.