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Kids on computerThe recently published findings from the Digital Youth Project, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, shed some interesting light on how young people use media and on the benefits of that use. Contrary to what the report calls common adult perceptions, the findings suggest that digital media are important to young people’s development and socialization in today’s world.

The research summary explains that “the digital world is creating new opportunities for youth to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills, and experiment with new forms of self-expression.” It also found that digital media allow young people to explore their own interests in ways that formal education often does not.

According to the three-year ethnographic study, in which researchers conducted hundreds of interviews, collected thousands of online profiles, and observed youth using media for thousands of hours, young people’s time online is mostly spent developing pre-existing offline friendships or exploring specific interests. The authors recommend that educators and other adults support this engagement with digital media and consider ways of using it more effectively in formal education.

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