Monday, November 14, 2005

Screenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: study on web-using teens

Earlier this month, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a study about American teenagers on the Net. This showed that not only are teens sophisticated users of the Net, they're also using it as creators. The most impressive statistic is that over half of teens who used the Net created content; particular forms such as blogging, personal webpages, working on webpages for other people, and even remixing of existing content are all fairly common.

The report confirms what I've definitely seen of the existence of a "generation gap" in Net use, especially for leisure as opposed to basic activities, like email for everyday communication, and reference. A lot of older people I know don't appreciate the significance the Net, seeing it as just another unproductive diversion for brats with too much time on their hands. For me it's odd, because I was in the era just before the Net came around; it wasn't a significant factor in my teen/high school years, only really getting into it in my 20s; so that I didn't grow up with it but rather came of age with it. It's funny, all the little ways that it's changed things; for instance, not getting references to subjects I didn't know about, whereas nowadays a Google search has a good chance of turning up the relevant explanation. And anyway, the Net has only recently actually come to its potential as a truly participatory medium, where such participation and real interaction is practical and widespread.

However, the study showed that kids are usually fortunate enough to have adults who do appreciate, and benefit from, their kids' superior technical prowess:
Parents of online teens view the internet and email as a positive addition to their children’s lives and teens are often the ones leading the technology adoption curve in their households.
and
Bloggers are tech-savvy and intrepid internet explorers. Bloggers and to a lesser extent teens who read blogs are internet omnivores who explore, play with, utilize and generally inhabit the internet with a greater abandon than their less blog-savvy counterparts.. They help adults do things online.
The New York Times had an article about the study, which pointed out that teens are just messing around, "tinkering with the toys that the digital revolution has put before them" rather than consciously being "at the vanguard of change". This was summed up with a good quote from one teen:
I taught myself how to use the Internet, so basically it was just a step-by-step process that clicked into my head. I just read directions and that's how I set it up. Pretty simple.
One thing that young people have in their favor, in this regard, is exactly that they haven't intimidated themselves into believing that such activities are more complicated than they are.

Speaking of the real Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it so happens that the first comic book issue featuring them is online in its entirety at the official website.

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