Scared of the amount of time your child is spending online? Or just curious? 'Curiosity kills the cat', they say. Well, read this and find out how children are adapting themselves to use the internet and what they use it for.
The Digital Youth Project, a MacArthur-funded three year, 22 case study, $3.3 million ethnographic study of what kids are doing online, has wound up and published its results. The project was undertaken by the eminent sociologist Mimi Ito and her talented colleagues (including the incomparable danah boyd) and is the largest and most comprehensive study of young peoples' internet use ever undertaken in the US.
Ito and her team establish a taxonomy of social activity, dividing it first into "peer-driven" and "interest-driven" -- the former being what kids do with their real-world friends, the latter being the niche interests that drive them to locate other people who are as fascinated as they are by whatever brand of esoterica they fancy.
Within these two categories, the researchers break things down further into "hanging out" (undirected, social activities), "messing around" (tinkering with media, networks and technologies) and "geeking out" (delving deep into subjects based on global communities of interest) and for each one, they describe the successful and unsuccessful techniques deployed by parents and educators to direct kids' activities.
All this is explained in a crisp, 55-page white paper, a snappy two-pager, and a full-length book called (appropriately), "Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media."