Published on May 3, 2006 at 5:05 AM
The children who participated in the HomeNetToo project were online for an average of 30 minutes a day. Findings indicate that children who used the Internet more had higher standardized test scores in reading and higher grade point averages (GPAs) at one year and at 16 months after the project began compared to children who used the Internet less, said lead author Linda Jackson, PhD. Internet use had no effect on standardized test scores in math.
"Improvements in reading achievement may be attributable to the fact that spending more time online typically means spending more time reading," said Dr. Jackson. "GPAs may improve because GPAs are heavily dependent on reading skills," she added.
In another article showing the positive effects of Internet use, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Ghana looked at the benefits of teens using the Internet for health information in the developing world, where access to health information is scarce. The study surveyed 778 15- to 18-year-olds living in Accra, Ghana, who were either in school or out of school on their Internet usage and knowledge of health information. Two thirds (66%) of the youth who were in school and around half (54%) of the youth who were out of school had gone online previously.
The authors found that regardless of these users' school status, gender, age or ethnicity, 53% went online to find health information. In fact, the Internet was even a relatively more important source for out-of-school than for in-school youth, a finding with important social implications. Youths said the Internet provided interesting material that helped them solve a problem or answer a question. The most common topics searched on the Internet for in-school youth were sexually transmitted diseases, diet/nutrition and fitness and exercise. For the out-of-school youth, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual activities and sexual abuse were the topics of choice.
"Out-of-school youth in Ghana may have parents with less formal education than the in-school youth, and this may inhibit certain discussions around sex and health," said lead author Dina L. G. Borzekowski, EdD. "With HIV/AIDs rampant in Africa, our finding has tremendous public health implications. The Internet may be an increasingly effective way to reach lower socioeconomic youth with prevention messages." Furthermore, the Internet is invaluable for adolescents who want to find out more about personal, sensitive and embarrassing issues related to their bodies, relationships and health, she added.