Online social networking is now so deeply embedded in the lifestyles of tweens and teens that it rivals television for their attention.Nine- to 17-year-olds report spending almost as much time using social networking services and Web sites as they do watching television. That pencils out to about nine hours a week on social networking and 10 hours a week watching TV, the study found.
It's worth noting this research was funded by three companies with a vested interest in teen and tween communication habits: Microsoft, Verizon and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. And while it confirms some things most people assume (young people are highly engaged in using technology) it also raises questions about ways schools might engage otherwise disconnected kids. So-called "nonconformists" -- students who step outside of online safety behavior rules -- seem to have
an "extraordinary" set of traditional and 21st century skills, including communication, creativity, collaboration and leadership skills and technology proficiency. Yet they are significantly more likely than other students to have lower grades, which they report as 'a mix of Bs and Cs,' or lower than, other students.Interestingly, almost 60 percent of the students suing social networking say they talk about education topics online, and more than 50 percent talk specifically about schoolwork. But, the study points out, "the vast majority" of school districts have stringent rules against nearly all forms of social networking during the school day.
Among the other key findings of the poll:
- More than one in four school districts (27 percent) say their schools participate in a structured teacher/principal online community.
- Districts that report that their parents are influential in technology decision making are more active in social networking (71 percent vs 59 percent in districts with low parental influence).
- 96 percent of school districts say that at least some of their teachers assign homework requiring Internet use.