Far from being a tool of the devil, the Internet is a great technology that helps kids develop and also builds family relationships, according to a new study from the National School Boards Foundation.
In fact, kids who use the Internet spend more time reading books and newspapers, and less time watching TV, according to the survey released Tuesday.
The study, which was also backed by the Children's Television Workshop and Microsoft, also contradicts some previous reports that using the Web makes people less social. Ninety-five percent of the parents surveyed said family interactions have either increased or stayed the same, despite Net usage.
The findings contrast a highly publicised report from Stanford University that concluded that the more time people spent online, the less time they spent with other people.
Not so, says the NSBF report. "Children (and parents) use email, chat rooms and instant messaging, for example, to connect with other people, not avoid them," the report says.
And 85 percent of parents whose children use the Internet said their kids spend more or the same amount of time reading books.
"In fact, once they start using the Internet, many children spend less time watching television; increased time reading newspapers, magazines and books; increased time playing outdoors; and increased time doing arts and crafts," the study report said.
"Based on the findings, we believe schools and families should work together to guide children to good content on the Internet, both in school and at home," NSBA executive director Anne Bryant said in a release.
The popularity of the Net may have something to do with its high incidence of use for schoolwork. The study found that 52 percent of 9- to 17-year-olds who use the Internet report using it for schoolwork at least once a week.
The study also found that usage among boys and girls is essentially the same, with 50 percent of girls ages 9 to 12 online and 46 percent of boys in that age group online.
CTW and the NSBF have developed a set of guidelines for schools and families, suggesting that parents and teachers pay as much attention to highlighting good content online as they do restricting bad content.