A new study carried out by the MacArthur Foundation has shown that online time is actually good for teenagers, countering the stereotypical view of parents that spending any time online is a waste of time.
The report's author, Dr. Mimi Ito, who is also a research scientist at the Department of Informatics at the University of California, told the BBC, "They are learning the technological skills and literacy needed for the contemporary world. They are learning how to communicate online, craft a public identity, create a home page, post links. All these things were regarded as sophisticated 10 years ago but young people today take them for granted."
According to Ito, social networks are just the new place where teenagers "hang out", rather than traditional places such as shopping malls, streets or parks. She also believes that the internet allows teens to explore their creativity and "take a deep dive into a subject."
Ito also said parents are struggling to keep up with the pace of technology and need to do more to try and keep up so they can give real guidance and help to their children on the dangers of the Internet. She also believes that parental involvement in teenagers use of the internet would help them connect with them.
"At the more social 'hanging out' layer, young people don't want their parents or teachers on their MySpace or Facebook page. But in the interest-driven side, there is a more productive role for parents and teachers to play that will help them connect with kids and their lives."
More than 800 teenagers and parents took part in the study, which was part of a $50 million project on digital media and learning. Researchers observed the users for over 5000 hours, over three years.