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Teens Busy in Internet Surfing "Is Not a Waste of Time"

Parents who always complain about their kids getting distracted and wasting time due to long hours spent on the internet can now take a breath of relief.

The most extensive US study undertaken to analyse the impact of digital media on the life of American teenagers reveals that the internet can actually prove beneficial for the youth.

“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

The $50 million study, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, says that online activities like social networking, instant messaging etc. help the teens in developing social as well as technical skills that are in a way essential for the overall personality development.

As part of the study, Ito and his team of researchers conducted personal as well as group interviews of 800 teens and their parents over a period of three years. In addition to this, the researchers invested about 5000 hours tracking the most popular websites among teens like Facebook, MySpace, Youtube and a few others, wherein the researchers carefully observed all the teen activities on these sites. With a view to support their findings, researchers also conducted diary studies to figure out the ways and extent to which the American youth is involved with digital media.

“This study creates a baseline for our understanding of how young people are participating with digital media and what that means for their learning,” said Connie Yowell, Ph.D., Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation

During their study, the researchers found two basic purposes for the teens to access various forms of digital media. The teens either had friendship-based purpose for 'hanging out' and staying connected with friends 24*7, or interest-based purpose for seeking relevant online information and communities which are relatively difficult to find elsewhere.

According to the report presented at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting held today, adults tend to be skeptical about the plausibility of internet usage by the youth only for fair and healthy purposes. The adults often seem to be negatively curious about what exactly the youth is doing online, therefore finding the digital media risky and unproductive for youth. Contrary to this, the study also suggested that today's youth is avid for acquiring knowledge and gaining expertise in diverse fields, and for this the teens remain awfully busy in navigating complex technical and social world by their online participation.

Hence, the conflicting adult and youth psychologies lead to a generation gap in how they view the value of online activity.

“This study creates a baseline for our understanding of how young people are participating with digital media and what that means for their learning,” said Connie Yowell, Ph.D., Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation. “It concludes that learning today is becoming increasingly peer-based and networked, and this is important to consider as we begin to re-imagine education in the 21st century."