Study finds teenagers without internet are “educationally disadvantaged”

British teenagers who do not have internet access are “missing out educationally and socially”, an extensive study by Oxford University’s Department of Education has found.

Interviews with over 200 teenagers and their families showed that young people without internet access are having to develop complicated and time-consuming ways of finding information to complete many homework assignments, which are increasingly relying on online preparation and research.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that as many as five per cent of children live in households without internet access, a total which one of the researchers described as “a significant number” of “disconnected” young people. The study also found that parents tended to view their children’s use of technology as a negative thing due to the potential for distraction posed by social networking sites, such as Facebook.

“Parental anxiety about how teenagers might use the very technologies that they have bought their own children at considerable expense is leading some to discourage their children from becoming confident users,” said Dr Chris Davies, one of the study’s researchers.

“The evidence, based on the survey and hundreds of interviews, shows that parents have tended to focus on the negative side – especially the distracting effects of social networking sites – without always seeing the positive use that their children often make of being online.”

Matthew Davies, a History and English student at Queen’s, said: “I think the internet really broadens the type of knowledge available to students, particularly at A-Level where wider knowledge is expected.”

“Most teenagers I know use the internet all the time, so I think it’s worrying to find that so many are without it.”

The research also found that female internet users were less likely to get distracted by multi-tasking while doing homework on the computer. Older teenagers were less likely than younger teenagers to use the internet and computers for creative purposes.

As well as the face-to-face interviews, evidence collected by the researchers from 1,000 randomly selected households supported their findings. The results of the study are due to be published next month in a book called “Teenagers and Technology”.

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