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60-Second Science

Even Poor Kids Are Social Network Savvy

Students from low-income families are finding ways to go online and engage in social networking. They may be learning valuable skills in the process. Christopher Intagliata reports.

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

Ten years ago, MySpace didn’t exist. Neither did Facebook. Just one site, called SixDegrees.com, dominated the online social networking market. But soon a bunch of sites sprouted up: LiveJournal, Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace, and in 2004, Facebook. Back then, Facebook was just for Harvard kids.

But a new study from the University of Minnesota says these days even the least privileged kids have profiles on MySpace and Facebook. And they’re on the internet all the time. That finding goes against past studies that have found a ‘digital divide’ between rich and poor kids.
 

The researchers surveyed 600 urban teens from families making less than $25,000 a year. Nearly all the kids said they go online, usually from home. And more than three quarters of them have pages on MySpace or Facebook. The students say they’ve learned valuable technology skills in the process: they edit and upload photos, videos and music, and some of them even mess with html to personalize their pages. The researchers say teachers might want to build on that experience. Slipping a little MySpace between reading and ‘rithmetic could be really rewarding.

—Christopher Intagliata

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