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New Study Says Computer-Savvy Kids Watch Less TV, Read More, Socialize More

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RALEIGH — Some people say children who surf the Internet are withdrawn and do not have much interest in other activities. A new national survey shows the opposite is true, that computer-literate children are very active.

Many children these days are computer and Internet savvy.A surveycommissioned by theNational School Boards Associationconcludes most parents and children are pleased with their online experience. The survey found that Internet use does not change healthy habits.

"Children who use the Internet, in fact, read more books, play with their friends and talk with their families to a greater degree," says Anne Bryant. Bryant says computing kids "do more outside sports, do more arts and crafts and, guess what, watch less television."

The findings do not surpriseN.C. State's Dr. Robert Schrag. He studies the effects of media on children. Schrag says the Internet is far more interactive than television or listening to music.

"Conceptually, I think it's a very active environment," he says. "Physically, it is a passive environment, except hands on the keyboard and on the mouse."

However, a child may be deeply involved mentally.

"They're clicking on things, they're chatting online. They are moving from point A to point B and for good or for ill, that's a participatory process," Schrag says.

The study also debunks the idea that boys use the Net more than girls. Actually, usage is even.

"Girls are using it for the best reason, which is education, and of course e-mail to their friends," Bryant says. "Boys tend to use it more for entertainment."

Parents surveyed generally believe the Internet is a safe place for children. They also feel creative content is critical, and parents from all economic levels want their children to have access.