Time Spent Online Important for Teen Development

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Monday, November 24, 2008

Time Spent Online Important for Teen Development

Results from the most extensive U.S. study on teens and their use of digital media show that America's youth are developing important social and technical skills online - often in ways adults do not understand or value. The research was funded by the MacArthur Foundation and is the most extensive U.S. study of teens' use of digital media.

"It might surprise parents to learn that it is not a waste of time for their teens to hang out online," said Mizuko Ito, University of California, Irvine researcher and the report's lead author. "There are myths about kids spending time online - that it is dangerous or making them lazy. But we found that spending time online is essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age."

Over three years, researchers interviewed over 800 young people and their parents, both one-on-one and in focus groups; spent over 5000 hours observing teens on sites such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and other networked communities; and conducted diary studies to document how, and to what end, young people engage with digital media.

Significant findings include:
    --  There is a generation gap in how youth and adults view the value of
        online activity.
        --  Adults tend to be in the dark about what youth are doing online, and
            often view online activity as risky or an unproductive distraction.
        --  Youth understand the social value of online activity and are
            generally highly motivated to participate.

    --  Youth are navigating complex social and technical worlds by
        participating online.
        --  Young people are learning basic social and technical skills that
            they need to fully participate in contemporary society.
        --  The social worlds that youth are negotiating have new kinds of
            dynamics, as online socializing is permanent, public, involves
            managing elaborate networks of friends and acquaintances, and is
            always on.

Source: Marketwatch