Ed-Tech Policy A National Roundup

Teenagers’ Social Networking Found to Have Educational Benefits in Poll

By Catherine Gewertz — August 28, 2007 1 min read
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At least half the adolescents who exchange messages for hours with their friends online or by cellphone spend part of the time discussing their schoolwork, a study shows.

The online survey of 1,277 9- to 17-year-olds found that 50 percent said they talk specifically about their schoolwork when they text-message by cellphone, or use their computers to instant-message, blog, or visit social-connection sites such as Facebook. Nearly six in 10 said they discuss education-related topics, including college or college planning, careers, and jobs.

The survey, commissioned by the Alexandria, Va.-based National School Boards Association and released this month, showed that 96 percent of adolescents with access to cellphones and Internet-capable computers use them to build and maintain social networks. It was supported by the Microsoft Corp.; News Corp., which owns MySpace; and Verizon.

The NSBA’s report urges school board members to “find ways to harness the educational value” of social networking, such as setting up chat rooms or online journals that allow students to talk about and collaborate on their classwork. School boards should also do everything possible to ensure that all students have access to the Internet, the group says.

The report also tells boards to re-evaluate policies that ban or tightly restrict the use of the Internet or social-networking sites at school. Findings from the survey, NSBA officials said, suggest that parents’ and educators’ perceptions of the dangers of online stalking and bullying—fears that fuel such restrictions—could be overblown.

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