Go ahead...Hang out on MySpace. Wait, what?

The MacArthur Foundation just released a study suggesting that, not surprisingly, given the integration of social media into business and modern culture, the time kids spend with so-called new media, is generally neither wasted nor particularly harmful.

The MacArthur Foundation just released a study suggesting that, not surprisingly, given the integration of social media into business and modern culture, the time kids spend with so-called new media, is generally neither wasted nor particularly harmful. In fact, as one of the lead researchers points out in the New York Times,

“It may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out with new media, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages,” said Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, “Living and Learning With New Media.” “But their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.”

I have an interview scheduled next week with a student creating a podcast on social media in education. As she noted to me, often young people don't respond to emails anymore; send them a message through Facebook and they respond immediately. What does this mean for business? It means that Intel is on the right track with its business-oriented social media development efforts.

In terms of the study, the Times again pointed out an important piece of the research that is worth the attention of classroom teachers:

“New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in a classroom setting,” the study said. “Youth respect one another’s authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults.”

The executive summary of the Foundation's whitepaper sums up the perspective nicely:

Social network sites, online games, video-sharing sites, and gadgets such as iPods and mobile phones are now fixtures of youth culture. They have so permeated young lives that it is hard to believe that less than a decade ago these technologies barely existed. Today’s youth may be coming of age and struggling for autonomy and identity as did their predecessors, but they are doing so amid new worlds for communication, friendship, play, and self-expression.

Many of these technologies that are "fixtures of youth culture" are permeating business as well. Been on Twitter lately? Sure, there's plenty of garbage, but there are also important communities sharing ideas, business contacts, and developing their own brands (of course, there's another one of those new media buzz words, but it certainly fits). How about that election we just had? Barack Obama has almost 135,000 followers on Twitter.

Again, a message from the study to administrators and teachers looking to integrate technology into the classroom:

In the process, young people acquire various forms of technical and media literacy by exploring new interests, tinkering, and “messing around” with new forms of media. They may start with a Google search or “lurk” in chat rooms to learn more about their burgeoning interest. Through trial and error, youth add new media skills to their repertoire, such as how to create a video or customize games or their MySpace page. Teens then share their creations and receive feedback from others online. By its immediacy and breadth of information, the digital world lowers barriers to self-directed learning.