New study shows online use good for teens

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.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Microsoft details the Windows 7 Taskbar

Next Story

AMD Phenom II hits 5GHz stable

18 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

one word, Facebook. They spent $50 million on this. wow. I bet these could have been spent on mush better and important things. But for some reason, America is too obsessed with research on subject that don't matter much.

Pretty much all research and surveys are like that though. It's like people getting all scared because a survey said eating rice causes health problems. If that's the case, how the hell did the Chinese and Japanese live for so long?

"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....

However, learning these really quite trivial tasks is always at the expense of something else, which negates the benefit, unless your entire life is going to be spent doing just those things listed above.

Communicating online is great, as long as you have the ability to communicate in the 'real world' too, which many teens do not, at least not in any degree that will make them job-worthy. I know of a few teens who happily express how good they are on the computer, and yet, when they need to call a company for something, they get their parents to do it, because they don't have the skills or the confidence to speak without tripping over their words. But hey, don't worry, at least they can click links and build a homepage. Great!

Read words and sentences from many younger people in the Neowin forums and comments and you'll see how dire the situation is. There is something innately funny about seeing a teenager proudly boast about the size of their processor, without being able to spell some of the most basic English words. It seems that being as thick as a plank is okay if you have a decent sized computer to compensate. You'll excuse me if I don't feel in the least bit comforted by the finding of this 'research'. Most adults know the real value of these grant-magnet research projects.

SniperX said,
Communicating online is great, as long as you have the ability to communicate in the 'real world' too, which many teens do not, at least not in any degree that will make them job-worthy. I know of a few teens who happily express how good they are on the computer, and yet, when they need to call a company for something, they get their parents to do it, because they don't have the skills or the confidence to speak without tripping over their words. But hey, don't worry, at least they can click links and build a homepage. Great!

That's why there needs to be a 'healthy' balance. (online/physical)

I myself spend anywhere from 20-30hrs online from surfing to gaming. I work full time and still spend time with my friends and work out (lifting and aerobics). It's really all about your upbringing that will dictate what habits a person will display.

As far as being able to interact with a company... I don't think any minor has a need to really interact with a company, but i understand what you meant. This fall onto the parent, not to conduct the business for the minor, but to ensure their participation and the eventual initiative to do it themselves by having them watch and learn. Sadly, not many parents are that interactive.. which some may argue is not entirely their fault either.

There is definitely a healthy balance between "virtual" friend interaction and physical friend interaction. There is an extreme notion (misunderstanding) that all online time = unhealthy, antisocial behavior. I believe there is a balance.

Certainly, the next generation will at least know how to "play" with technology. Can they turn that skill into a job?