Teenagers Are Not Being Driven Crazy By The Web

It’s nice to see some levelheaded research into what really goes on with teenagers and the web, instead of the usual Sunday supplement nonsense about predators, IM giving you the attention span of a flea, and how everything you put in your Facebook page will be there forever and lead to you not getting the big job after school.

The MacArthur Foundation has sponsored a serious investigation by a team on top-notch researchers – Mizuko Ito, Heather Horst, Matteo Bittanti, danah boyd, Becky Herr-Stephenson, Patricia G. Lange, C.J. Pascoe, and Laura Robinson with Sonja Baumer, Rachel Cody, Dilan Mahendran, Katynka Martínez, Dan Perkel, Christo Sims, and Lisa Tripp – and published a 60 page summary, which is now available for download.

[from Teenagers’ Internet Socializing Not a Bad Thing by Tamar Lewin]

Good news for worried parents: All those hours their teenagers spend socializing on the Internet are not a bad thing, according to a new study by the MacArthur Foundation.

Actually, the report goes much farther, and directly states that Web interaction is a healthy aspect of growing up today, providing a way for kids to enhance the conventional aspect of friendship and belonging. Teenagers are using the Web as a critical component of peer-based or self-directed learning about topics of interest to them. The report stresses a key implication for educators and parents: that instead of limiting teenagers access to the Web, it should be incorporated into education planning at a basic level, and moving away from the job-training mentality that pervades education today:

[from Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project]

Rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, what would it mean to think of it as a process guiding youths’ participation in public life more generally? Finally, what would it mean to enlist help in this endeavor from engaged and diverse publics that are broader than what we traditionally think of as educational and civic institutions?

Not the usual Civics lesson, at all.

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