School administrators take note. The Internet is not isolating children or teenagers. In fact, chances are they are more connected because of it.
According to the Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community survey social media activities are associated with several beneficial social activities, including having discussion networks that are more likely to contain people from different backgrounds.
As well the survey found that Internet access has become a common component of people’s experiences within many public spaces. For instance, of those Americans who have been in a library within the past month, 38% logged on to the Internet while they were there, 18% have done so in a cafe or coffee shop.
So what does this do to the myth that Internet, like television and rock & roll before it, is melting the brains of school children and conditioning users to a life of solitude?
Well it goes to show that schools can be facilitating the use of internet-based experiences as a way to initiate relationships and networks outside the classroom. In fact, the study gives schools, especially independent schools, an incentive to utilize a relatively easy tool to connect with others about all kinds of topics. As well, schools have an opportunity to market themselves as facilitators of discussion, connection and innovation.
And for those that think that the Internet limits students to the classroom, the mobile web has a few ideas of its own to share. The survey found that ownership of a mobile phone and participation in a variety of Internet activities were associated with larger and more diverse core discussion networks, as well. Owners of a mobile phone, (along with frequent internet users at work, and bloggers) are more likely to belong to a local voluntary group, such as a neighborhood association, sports league, youth group, church, or social club.
The idea that time spent on the Internet is limiting connections with the outside world is a myth that schools can’t afford to perpetuate. Independent schools must embrace the web and its tools in order to help support their mission of helping students understand their changing world and develop a strong sense of community. Without the web, their reach is lacking.