Kids’ ‘community’ knowledge from Internet leaves researcher hopeful

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Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 11:08 AM.

GAINESVILLE ─ Parents sometimes link the Internet to negative social behavior, but some children use the Web to learn about their communities, a new University of Florida study shows.

While most research on young people’s media use focuses on negative effects, UF Professor Rosemary Barnett sees it as a good thing.

“Two key factors to consider are the nature of the content and how it is used,” said Barnett, who teaches in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “The ability to tap into a phenomenal amount of information so easily and quickly on a variety of topics has allowed the Internet to enhance education for children.”

After a 12-year-old Lakeland girl who endured cyber-bullying committed suicide in September 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its media exposure policy. The group now recommends children use media for entertainment no more than two hours each night. They make an exception for online homework.

While the UF/IFAS study gave clues to children’s general Internet use, it focused on how students use the Internet to learn about their communities.

In the study, 133 children with an average age of 13 went to after-school programs at community centers in Volusia and Seminole counties. The children, all of whom qualified for free or reduced-price lunches, did not have computers at home and had never used the Internet outside of school.

Children used the Internet for about 30 minutes to an hour each day, Barnett said. They were taught to search for certain topics and shown approved web pages.



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