Study Shows How Internet Use Affects Today’s Youth

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

According to a new Pew Internet study, today´s youth are using the Internet in a positive way when it comes to research.

But while the Internet offers these youth unprecedented access to a wealth of information, it also tends to distract them. Additionally, the study found that the Internet is growing faster than these kids can keep up in terms of literacy.

The Pew group surveyed Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers to discuss the research habits of today´s youth. Of these teachers, 77% said having access to today´s “digital tools” has had a “mostly positive” effect on kids these days when it comes to researching their work.

However, 87% of the same teachers said that, for all the good the Internet has on today´s students, today´s technologies are working to develop an ever distracted group of young people. A smaller number of teachers, 64%, say the Internet has already done this and is doing more harm than good when it comes to a student´s academic pursuits.

To find these numbers, Pew conducted a two-part survey. In the first phase, Pew gathered a focus group of middle and high school teachers comprised of both AP and NWP teachers, as well as a group of teachers at a College Board school in the American northeast. Two of these focus groups were conducted online, while another group was conducted in person.

In addition to polling teachers, Pew also conducted 2 in person focus groups of students in grades 9 through 12 from the same College Board school.

The Pew group claims these focus groups were conducted to allow the teachers and students the chance to talk about the effects of modern technology and social networks on the research and study habits of today´s youth. The group asked the teachers to talk at length about the ways these technologies had affected the writing of middle and high school students. The group also asked the teachers to discuss how the same students are incorporating cell phones and social networks into their academic lives.

After the focus groups had been conducted the Pew group discovered the following:

Nearly all of the teachers interviewed in this study, a whopping 99%, agreed with the statement “the internet enables students to access a wider range of resources than would otherwise be available.”

A lesser 65% agreed that the Internet has given today´s students the license to become more “self-sufficient” researchers.

When it comes to search engines, such as Bing, Google and Yahoo, 76% of the teachers surveyed agree that the Internet has more or less spoiled today´s youth to expect quick and near-immediate results when looking for an answer, a behavior which might cause students to give up when they don´t find their answers straight away.

In fact, 71% of those teachers interviewed agreed that students are so accustomed to finding what they need so quickly that they won´t use a wide range of sources when conducting their research.

Fewer of the teachers (yet still a majority) agree that having so much information available has made it harder for students to find what they need when conducting research.

In the end, 47% of these teachers strongly agree that the literacy of these students has yet to catch up with the Internet. 44% of the same teachers say that schools should be focusing on digital literacy in their core curriculums.