New study shows social networking is good for youngsters

November 20, 2008

A lot has been made of the dangers of the Internet for young people. Whether it’s the risk of sexual predators, or the risk that a virtual existence can somehow replace a child’s thirst for a real life, the Web has often been described as a bad influence on the youth of today. So it’s nice to finally see some research that suggests the opposite is true.

The Internet has been an absolutely revolutionary invention, giving people new ways of working, new ways of communicating, and of being entertained. The effect it has had on adults has been seen to be wholly good, except of course those people who become addicted to World of Warcraft, Second Life, and such. But children are another matter altogether.

Parents are rightly worried about the influence of the Internet on their kids lives, and most offer guidance, advice, and often limits on Web usage. But maybe they should relax those rules, as a new study by the MacArthur Foundation called ‘Living and Learning With New Media’ suggests the Internet can be a force for good for youngsters.

The study was conducted between 2005 and 2008 with over 800 young people and their parents interviewed in that time. The teenagers were also observed online for over 5,000 hours while they used social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, told The New York Times:

It may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out with new media, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages. But their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.

Those concerns about predators and stranger danger have been overblown. There’s been some confusion about what kids are actually doing online. Mostly, they’re socializing with their friends, people they’ve met at school or camp or sports.

The study found that most teenagers use a variety of methods to keep in touch with their friends on virtually a 24 hour basis, including social networks, instant messaging services and their cellphones. Casual friendships can also often lead to romance through these forms of communication.

The most interesting point of the study explored how while teenagers may start by exploring social networks and sites such as YouTube, eventually, the Web leads them to explore and find information out about niches they are interested in. If a kid delves deeply in to one subject matter they are said to have been “geeking out”.

Parents will always have concerns over what their teenage son or daughter is doing online, and rightly so. But this study does at least show that the Web isn’t a complete waste of time and in fact could help kids in their quest to grow and mature.

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4 Responses to “New study shows social networking is good for youngsters”

  1. Josh Weissbock:

    LULZ!! i m on t3h facebook all t3h tyem and lyek I can spellz gr8!!

  2. A lot has been made of the dangers of the Internet for young people. Whether it’s the risk of sexual predators, or the risk that a virtual existence can somehow replace a child’s thirst for a real life, the Web has often been described as a bad influe:

    A lot has been made of the dangers of the Internet for young people. Whether it’s the risk of sexual predators, or the risk that a virtual existence can somehow replace a child’s thirst for a real life, the Web has often been described as a bad influence on the youth of today. So it’s nice to finally see some research that suggests the opposite is true.

    The Internet has been an absolutely revolutionary invention, giving people new ways of working, new ways of communicating, and of being entertained. The effect it has had on adults has been seen to be wholly good, except of course those people who become addicted to World of Warcraft, Second Life, and such. But children are another matter altogether.

    Parents are rightly worried about the influence of the Internet on their kids lives, and most offer guidance, advice, and often limits on Web usage. But maybe they should relax those rules, as a new study by the MacArthur Foundation called ‘Living and Learning With New Media’ suggests the Internet can be a force for good for youngsters.

    The study was conducted between 2005 and 2008 with over 800 young people and their parents interviewed in that time. The teenagers were also observed online for over 5,000 hours while they used social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, told The New York Times:

    It may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out with new media, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages. But their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.

    Those concerns about predators and stranger danger have been overblown. There’s been some confusion about what kids are actually doing online. Mostly, they’re socializing with their friends, people they’ve met at school or camp or sports.

    The study found that most teenagers use a variety of methods to keep in touch with their friends on virtually a 24 hour basis, including social networks, instant messaging services and their cellphones. Casual friendships can also often lead to romance through these forms of communication.

    The most interesting point of the study explored how while teenagers may start by exploring social networks and sites such as YouTube, eventually, the Web leads them to explore and find information out about niches they are interested in. If a kid delves deeply in to one subject matter they are said to have been “geeking out”.

    Parents will always have concerns over what their teenage son or daughter is doing online, and rightly so. But this study does at least show that the Web isn’t a complete waste of time and in fact could help kids in their quest to grow and mature.
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  3. Emily:

    to be honest i think this is right but what is this all about though, i am 14 years old and how can a scientist tell you whats going on in a childs mind and what they play on. It is a waste, we go on because if we hang about outside we get accused of clogging their house, we are scaring the eldery..all teenagers are not the same as we are sterio typed into somthing most of us arnt. If there was not all these cases on the news paper about all of us then elderly people would not be scared of us, why doesnt anyone ever think good of us, like we are nothing, a waste of space. I am just as good as the elderly people, just because we are young doesnt not mean we are trouble, i have better points about politics than my father but he agrees with all my points..i am just a normal girl, not geeky nor popular and i think you older people need to realise we are just like you and you need to know we arnt all like that.

  4. Aaron:

    My comment is to Emily. I’ll start off that it terrifies me, by the way, that your father shares political opinions with a 14 year old. What do you truly know about politics? Second, as much as I hate to say it, stereotypes are there for a reason, enough of the population choose to be like that and people react. Instead of crying about how the elderly mistreat you and pre-judge you, step out and show them you’re not that way. That is how stereotypes are broken. Judging the elderly about their judgement on you on a blog(I’m sure they’ll never read) is completely pointless. If you want to change the judgement, use your first amendment rights and speak out.

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