Study released today by the MacArthur Foundation suggests that using Facebook and other Social Networking sites is more useful than not. A team of researchers working on the foundation’s “Digital Youth Project” concluded that interaction with new media such as Facebook is increasingly becoming an essential part of becoming a competent citizen in the digital age.
Team of researchers conducted more than 800 interviews of youths and their parents, and spent more than 5,000 hours observing teens on sites such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. The goal was to find out how youths use the digital media, such as social networking sites and video games, to understand and participate in society.
The study shows that all that Web surfing and online socializing isn’t necessarily eroding the intelligence or initiative of the young generation. The Internet isn’t rotting their brains. Actually, it’s almost necessary. Kids denied access to the new media, what ever the reason, are likely to be short on skills that members of their generation are expected to possess.
“When kids lack access to the Internet at home or public libraries and schools block sites that are central to their social communication, youth are doubly handicapped in their efforts to participate in common culture and sociability,” the study reads.
Major findings from the Digital Youth Project:
- Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace foster productive, if not essential, social skills for teens.
- Adults who restrict access to such the sites may do teens a disservice.
- When youths “hang out” online, they’re reaching out to people they know, not strangers.
- That form of hanging out is no better or worse than similar, face-to-face interaction.
- Social networking sites allow youths to develop public identities.
“It may look like kids are wasting a lot of time online, but they’re actually learning a lot of social, technical and also media literacy skills,” said Mizuko Ito, a researcher at the University of California, Irvine who lead the study.
Some of their findings should be no surprise to teens or their parents. For instance, teens like to hang out with their friends online. They learn social skills online. They flirt online. They develop interests, express themselves creatively, and give each other feedback — all online.
(ST. LOUIS POST)