Do Social Networks Bridge the Digital Divide?

Caroline McCarthy has an interesting post about a recent report which suggests social networks are actually educational for youth, rather than simply acting as a time suck. Social networks have rapidly become one of the most predominant communication tools on the web especially for the youth who have flocked to MySpace and more recently, Facebook.

If you haven’t watched the Frontline special “Growing Up Online“, I highly recommend checking it out. The program covers the impact that social networks are having on children growing up today. It is less than an hour long and is an extremely engaging program for anybody to watch.

One of the most interesting highlights of the study, Caroline McCarthy suggests, is that “social networks may be part of the reason that low-income students are largely just as technologically proficient as their peers, contradicting parts of a 2005 Pew study that detailed an economic ‘digital divide.’” The assertion that social networks help to eliminate the digital divide is a substantial one.

This study would also suggest that school policies of blocking access to social networks may not be the best idea. In fact schools should encourage student participation in sites like MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and MyYearbook. Even while social networks may help bridge the digital divide, Danah Boyd suggests that there is yet another divide within social networks: a divide of classes.

While there will continue to be social divides, it appears that social networks tend to create a net positive impact rather than further the existing social divides. Do you agree with the findings of this study?

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