Safe & Smart: Research and Guidelines for Children’s Use of the Internet

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With financial support from Microsoft Corporation and Children's Television Workshop (creators of "Sesame Street"), and with guidance from the latter, the National School Boards Foundation launched a Safe and Smart Internet initiative to increase people's understanding of children and the Internet.

Telephone interviews were conducted with children ages nine to 17 and parents of children ages two to 17 in 1,735 randomly selected households, in 49 percent of which at least one child uses the Internet. Researchers concluded that, despite recent reports about Internet-use-associated isolation, violence, pornography, predators and commercialism, most child Internet-users feel good about their Internet experience, and most parents see the Internet as a powerful tool for learning and communicating. Among other findings:

White children and high-income children are far more likely to use the Internet than black children and low-income children. There is no statistically significant gender gap.

Seventy percent of Internet-using children use it at home, 56 percent use it at school, and a small minority use it at other locations, such as youth centers. For low-income and black children, home use is lower and school use higher.

Most Internet users ages nine to 17 say they use it for schoolwork at least once a week, and 33 percent say they use it at least once a week for non-school-related learning. Girls are more likely than boys to use the Internet for e-mail, chat rooms and education, and boys are more likely to use it for games and entertainment.

For some age groups, most parents say their children's time spent reading, doing arts and crafts and playing outdoors has either stayed the same or increased since they started using the Internet, while TV watching has decreased.

For school leaders and parents, the report recommends increasing access for children, including preschoolers, finding ways of facilitating education through Internet use, and providing not-too-close monitoring by encouraging use of positive Internet programs more than restricting use of negative ones. 17 pages. Free. Full report available online only. Contact: National School Boards Foundation, 1680 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314. (703) 838-6722. E-mail: