The rapid growth of the Internet is increasingly international with young people being the early adopters in most countries. However, the quality of Internet access looms as a major barrier hidden behind Internet use statistics. The goal of this study was to provide an in-depth evaluation of young people's perspectives on using the Internet to obtain health information and resources (e-health). Using an inductive qualitative research design, 27 focus groups were conducted in Ontario, Canada. The 210 young participants were selected to reflect diversity in age, sex, geographic location, cultural identity and risk. A major finding was how the quality of Internet access influenced young people's ability to obtain health information and resources. Quality of Internet access was affected by four key factors: 1. Privacy, 2. Gate-keeping, 3. Timeliness and 4. Functionality. Privacy was particularly relevant to these young people in getting access to sensitive health information (e.g. sexual activities). Variations in access quality also impacted participation in mutual support, fostering social networks and getting specific health questions answered. These results serve as a warning about using Internet penetration statistics alone as a measure of access. Concerted attention is needed on improving the quality of Internet access for achieving the potential of e-health. This is imperative for addressing the digital divide affecting populations both within countries and globally between countries.
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