Sunday, April 25

No I am not putting off my homework, I am becoming a competent citizen...

For all my dear facebook lovers...

Some might call it unproductive. Or maybe a bad habit. Or just a frivolous distraction. Or even dangerous. But I insist that daily Facebook use is time well spent.

“It’s like a social connection,it’s not a waste of time. It’s like talking on the phone – that isn’t a waste of time.”

Howell’s justification for the hours she spends on the social networking site is dead on, according to a study released today by the MacArthur Foundation. 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.

And further, all that Web surfing isn’t necessarily eroding the intelligence or initiative of the young generation.

“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 led the study.

A 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 [website] and YouTube. The goal was to find out how youths use digital media, such as social networking sites and video games, to understand and participate in society.

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.

But the kicker?

All that Internet time isn’t rotting their brains. Actually, it’s almost necessary, according to the study.

Kids denied access to new media, because their family can’t afford it or because their parents, school or library restrict their access or time on social networking sites, are likely to be short on skills that members of their generation are expected to possess, the researchers concluded.

“When kids lack access to the Internet at home, and 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.

The research was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a social advocacy group that focuses, in part, on the effect of technology on children and society.

The study isn’t the first to suggest youths use new media in productive ways. Another study released in September by the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggested that teens use video games to stay in touch with friends – and that some games may even encourage youths to become involved in their communities.

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