Facebook, MySpace Beneficial To Teens

    November 20, 2008

Teens who use social media such as MySpace and Facebook are not just wasting time, they are in fact developing important social and technical skills online, according to new research from the MacArthur Foundation.

Facebook, MySpace Beneficial To Teens

"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."

The study was conducted over the past three years and included over 800 young people and their parents, it focused on how young people engage with digital media.

There is a generation gap in how youth and adults view the value of online activity. Adults often don’t know what youth are doing online, and tend to view online activity as risky or an unproductive distraction.  Youth understand the social value of online activity and are generally highly motivated to participate.

Young people are learning basic social and technical skill they need to fully participate in contemporary society.  The social worlds that youth are involved with have new kinds of dynamics, as online socializing is permanent, public, requires managing elaborate networks of friends and acquaintances, and is always on.

Other positive findings include that the Internet provides a way 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 adults.

"Online spaces provide unprecedented opportunities for kids to expand their social worlds and engage in public life, whether that is connecting with peers over MySpace or Facebook, or publishing videos on YouTube," said Ito.

"Kids learn on the Internet in a self-directed way, by looking around for information they are interested in, or connecting with others who can help them. This is a big departure from how they are asked to learn in most schools, where the teacher is the expert and there is a fixed set of content to master."

In some cases the researchers found that parents and their children came together around gaming or shared digital media projects, where both parties found a common ground.