If you have children who use the Internet, four articles recently published by the professional monthly for psychologists, the American Psychological Associations Monitor on Psychology may be of interest to you. Sure, it’s now nearly a decade after the Internet became popular, but hey, better late than never. The first two articles are worth your time, the latter two, probably not so much.
The first article, entitled It’s fun, but does it make you smarter?, examines the emerging research on the Internet’s effect on a child’s learning processes:
For most children and teenagers, using the Internet has joined watching television and talking on the phone in the repertoire of typical behavior. In fact, 87 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds are now online, according to a 2005 Pew Research Center report. That’s a 24 percent increase over the previous four years, leading parents and policymakers to worry about the effect access to worlds of information—and misinformation—has on children. Psychologists are only beginning to answer that question, but a study led by Michigan State University psychologist Linda Jackson, PhD, showed that home Internet use improved standardized reading test scores.
The second article, Socially wired, looks at how the Internet, as a new mode of communication, is affecting the social development of children and teens:
The reason for this closeness may stem from another one of the study’s findings—that nearly one in three adolescents say they’re better able to share intimate information about themselves online than offline, especially when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex. It seems that teens, especially those who may be socially anxious in face-to-face situations, view the Internet as a relatively low-risk venue for disclosing personal information.
Some of the articles research highlights are unfortunate. I’m not sure why, for instance, the author decides to include a study that asked mental health professionals — not teens themselves — whether their teen clients were socially isolating. Hardly rigorous research there. And the study didn’t compare this type of socially-isolating behavior with pre-Internet socially-isolating behaviors, an important comparison to make (e.g., are teens more socially isolating today, or simply using different means to do so?).
The third article is a highlight from a soon-to-be-published book, Creating a place for MySpace (even as Myspace usage has peaked) with the following nuggets of information (most of which we’ve seen presented already):
Learn the technology. “Have your kid show you how MySpace works,” Rosen says. “Have them show you what YouTube is. Have them work with you online a little bit. Have them feel good about their skills.” This can go a long way toward helping the young person feel more at ease, and give the parent a better sense of which rules and limits might be important.
Place computers in a room the family frequents. “You don’t want to create a ‘techno-cocoon’ where your teen disappears into his or her bedroom and doesn’t participate in family activities,” he says.
Plan family activities in advance and include your teen.
Limit your teens’ online time. Set a rule stipulating that a given amount of time on the Internet be matched by other activities—for example, an hour online for two hours spent visiting with parents or friends, reading or playing outside.
Monitor their activities. “Parents need to be aware of exactly what media their teens are consuming and monitor them for anything that might create discomfort or cause potential problems,” says Rosen. The easiest way to do this, he says, is to maintain a line of communication that is respectful, constructive and collegial, not punitive.
The last article, Web pornography’s effect on children, examines research connecting porn online with offline attitudes and behaviors. Although research is scarce, the writer nonetheless finds investigators who see links between young people who access online porn and unhealthy attitudes toward sex. The upshot?
It’s too early to say what these findings mean—or even what to do if clearer results are shown.[…]
And one of my favorite lines ever to appear in print:
What is clear to researchers, though, is the need for more research.
In other words, after a decade, we still don’t know much about this topic. Kind of suggests there wasn’t much of a story there yet to write, no?