US Teen Research: Teens are highly skilled with social aspects of the web, but miss opportunities to expand their personal interests
Results from U.S. study on teens and their use of digital media (The Digital Youth Project, found via RWW) show that America’s youth are developing important social and technical skills online – often in ways adults do not understand or value.
“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.”
About the research:
In a qualitative research conducted over the last 3 years, 28 researchers and collaborators at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley, interviewed 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.
Research findings show –
• There is a marked 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. In contrast – 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: They 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. They are motivated to learn more from each other than from adults.
• Most youth are not taking full advantage of the learning opportunities of the Internet. They are exploring social aspects of the internet but neglect other learning opportunities, which are perceived less popular within their local peer groups.
The common socializing tools available for teens are leading them to follow mainly “what’s popular”. Parents’ role should be to help them find the right spaces to develop specific expertise, where they can engage with new peers who share their personal interests.