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Internet Time Boosts Teens Social And Technical Skills

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Teens Online and Social Skills

A large study from the MacArthur Foundation shows it is no waste of time for teens to spend time on the Internet. The foundation, through funding from the digital media and learning initiative, has set aside $50 million to study how digital media affects our youth. The results are very positive.

According to the study results, though parents may not quite understand the value of the Internet, teens develop necessary social and technical skills by interacting with each other, and navigating through Internet tools for learning. Lead author and researcher of the study, Mizuko Ito, University of California, Irvine says, "It might surprise parents to learn that it is not a waste of time for their teens to hang out online."

He explains that the Internet provides a medium for teens to develop needed social and technical skills to become "competent citizens in the digital age."

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Supporting the research effort was the late Peter Lyman of the University of California, Berkeley in conjunction with Michael Carter of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education. The team of 28 researchers spent 5000 hours, over a period of three years, interviewing teens and their parents while observing Internet behavior among the teens on MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and other online social communities. They found that teens spend time on the Internet for friendship and obtaining information.

The study on teenage social interaction and time spent online revealed several interesting facts about the way teens respond to the Internet. The results showed that youth really are interested in learning from each other. They also seem to learn from each other, responding to their peers better than they do adults.

The internet allows teens to expand their scope of interest beyond that of their local peers, expanding possibilities for learning. "This is a big departure from how they are asked to learn in most schools, where the teacher is the expert and there is a fixed set of content to master."

Disseminating information, learning and socialization are all valuable tools for teens to develop healthy habits. The study shows that teens are not just wasting time on the Internet. The researcher, showing that teens gain valuable skills from the internet, might ease parental concerns.