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Adolescents' use of the Internet: a controversial, coming-of-age resource

Dina L G Borzekowski
Adolescent Medicine Clinics 2006, 17 (1): 205-16
Emerging research on adolescents and the Internet should be thoughtfully considered, especially with respect to the influence of Internet activities on mental health and psychiatric conditions. A given Internet site may have content that would be helpful to one, have no effect on another, and be harmful to yet an-other adolescent. The effect on the adolescent would in part be determined by the site itself and the way in which it provides information and interactivity, and in part on the characteristics of the particular adolescent. It will be necessary to employ diverse approaches to keep current the information on how adolescents use the Internet, as well as to understand how it affects them. Rather than rely on focus groups and self-report surveys, researchers should examine adolescent Internet use with naturalistic methods that will provide quantitative and qualitative data regarding this new domain. Additionally, researchers can use experimental designs to explore how Internet experiences or exposure to online information affects health knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Because adolescents rely on the Internet for both its content and technology,youth caregivers and advocates should continue to research and study this medium. The efficacy of delivering Internet-based therapies and prevention pro-grams should be studied. Mental health organizations should remain vigilant,monitoring and helping to improve websites [7]. Parents should also be aware of their adolescents' online activities, so it may be necessary for health practitioners to educate parents about what is available and occurring on line. Lastly, youth need to be better informed on how to best use the Internet. We take for granted that adolescents are savvy users of this technology, when it is not yet fully known how young people make use of the Internet and how they incorporate information from the Internet into their lives. Online media literacy skills are necessary and should be developed among the very young to make the best use of the Internet.

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