The Many Benefits of New Media

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We’re a family that likes to balance a healthy dose of outside play time (baseball, football, and imaginary play for the younger kids) and after school activities (soccer, gymnastics, track for example) with time spent online or watching TV – that is, after homework is done.

Additionally, we’ve placed limits on both TV and computer time.  I was amazed to learn how many hours a raid on World of Warcraft could last, and the entertainment value it provided my son and his friends. I was intrigued to listen to the play-by-play of the football match on the Wii my other son just won after an hour of “quiet time”.

While I might have had concerns about the time they were spending interacting with games or online,(and why we placed a time limit on such activities) I was pleased to learn that there are many great benefits that these activities are providing our children.

According to the Digital Youth Research Study: Living and Learning with New Media, friendship-driven and interest-driven online activity allow youth to create and navigate new forms of expression and rules for social behavior.  The study found that by, “exploring new interests, tinkering, and ‘messing around’ with new forms of media, kids acquire various forms of technical and media literacy.”   For example, kids can learn how to create their own avatars (characters) to participate in virtual worlds, or learn how to create a video or game.  They then can share their creation with others, and get immediate feedback.

Some kids even “geek out” (a positive thing) and get to dive into a topic or a talent of great interest to them. The deep dive is driven not by local friendships the study reports, but by a connection with other like-minded kids that share the same interest with the goal of improving what they’re good at and gaining a reputation among their peers.

What was particularly encouraging to me, is the fact that this new media (whether online gaming, social networking, or video sharing sites) allowed for more freedom than what was apparent in the classroom; it inspires respect and motivation among peer groups, and efforts to learn more are self-directed by our kids versus pre-defined as they are in the classroom.

All great benefits for our kids.

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