Friday, November 28, 2008
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
All those hours that teenagers spend socializing on the Internet may not be such a bad thing after all. America’s youth are actually developing important social and technical skills online – often in ways adults do not understand or value. These findings were the result of the most extensive U.S. study on teens and their use of digital media, commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation.
Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, Living and Learning With New Media, said that although it may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out online, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages, their participation, however, is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. And more important, these young people are learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.
Moreover, Ms. Ito, a research scientist in the department of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, said that some parental concern about the dangers of Internet socializing might result from a misperception.
“Those concerns about predators and stranger danger have been overblown,” she said. “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, part of a $50 million project on digital and media learning, used several teams of researchers to interview more than 800 young people and their parents and to observe teenagers online for more than 5,000 hours. Because of the adult sense that socializing on the Internet is a waste of time, the study said, teenagers reported many rules and restrictions on their electronic hanging out, but most found ways to work around such barriers that let them stay in touch with their friends steadily throughout the day.
“Teens usually have a ‘full-time intimate community’ with whom they communicate in an always-on mode via mobile phones and instant messaging,” the study said.
The researchers also identified two distinctive categories of teen engagement with digital media: friendship-driven and interest-driven. While friendship-driven participation centered on “hanging out” with existing friends, interest-driven participation involved accessing online information and communities that may not be present in the local peer group.
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.
* Young people are motivated to learn from their peers online.
* The Internet provides new kinds of public spaces for youth to interact and receive feedback from one another.
* Young people respect each other’s authority online and are more motivated to learn from each other than from adults.
* Most youth are not taking full advantage of the learning opportunities of the Internet.
* Most youth use the Internet socially, but other learning opportunities exist.
* Youth can connect with people in different locations and of different ages who share their interests, making it possible to pursue interests that might not be popular or valued with their local peer groups.
* “Geeked-out” learning opportunities are abundant – subjects like astronomy, creative writing, and foreign languages.
“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.”
The John D and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with assets of $7 billion, supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the foundation work to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.
To learn more about the MacArthur Foundation and the work of their grantees, visit their annual report online.
John D. MacArthur (1897-1978) developed and owned Bankers Life and Casualty Company and other businesses, as well as considerable property in Florida and New York. His wife Catherine (1909-1981) held positions in many of these companies and served as a director of the Foundation.
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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:12 AM
I started to use the internet only a few years ago, and since then, I have become a cyber mom.
I really took pains to learn, because I didn't want the so called generation gap to become a barrier between me and my kids, and because I needed to penetrate that "other world" of theirs. I didn't want to be shut out, for how could I follow them through if I lag behind, di ba. Kaya ngayon, I am their number one cyber stalker and I know what's happening to them, including those which they keep secret from me... hehehe. Wala silang lusot.
- Señor Enrique said...
Goodness! With so many activities that our today's youth can get into, I tip my hat off to you, Rhoda, for knowing everything that is happening to your kids. That's truly amazing!