Spending time online is beneficial for teenagers

December 1, 2008 at 8:28 pm 1 comment

A study of 800 teenagers and parents conducted over 3 years by the MacArthur Foundation in the US reveals that it is good for teens to spend time online. This was reported in a news report on BBC News Online last week. Apparently, surfing the internet, playing games and social networking are all considered important for teen development, according to the study.

I know several friends and colleagues who often yell at their kids for wasting time online. This is what most parents and teachers actually think – that it is a complete waste of time.

“They are learning the technological skills and literacy needed for the contemporary world, and learning to communicate online” said the report’s author, Dr Mimi Ito.

The strange thing is that many of us have being saying this all along. So how come it took US$50 million and 5,000 hours of observation of young people using Digital media for learning for researchers to discover this?

Whether it be learning through websites like The Exploratorium,  museums or art sites or conducting research for an assignment, kids who have access have a lot of advantage over those who do not.

Social networks too can be a source of collaborative learning and sharing. There have been examples of kids getting together, forming Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and getting involved in sharing resources and teaching each other a great number of things. Some small time businesses have been started this way by very young people. Cultural exchanges and an understanding of each other’s countries and way of life has taken place. Say your child had to write about the history of the African American movement and some child in the US had to write about the Indus Valley Civilization. Couldn’t they help each other and make both assignments a lot more interesting?

The MacArthur Foundation’s education director, Connie Yowell, according to the BBC news report says:

“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.”

So next time any parent decided that spending time online is a pure waste of a child’s time, think again!

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