What exactly do preteens do online?

Nobody really knows, and that’s a problem.

It’s a problem not just because of our fears–stranger danger, porn, and phishing–but because of lost opportunities to help kids learn.  We need to understand why kids engage with online content and what kids are learning from the Internet. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s 2013 study states that we need to examine children’s views on “questions of privacy, consent and freedom of speech, authorship and transfer of ownership.”

The study focuses on the social networking habits of people from ages 5 to 18. Anne Collier of Net Family News agrees with the importance of the work, and thinks we need more focus on the younger demographic. “Children are very different developmentally from teens and have very different interests,” she writes.

According to the report, children’s Internet usage spikes between the ages of 5 and 9: “About 30% of 3-to-5-year-old children use the Internet on a typical day, compared with about 50% of 6-to-9-year-olds.” Within the latter age group, Internet usage continues to rise. The report indicates 47% of 6-year-olds using the Internet every day, “compared with 67% of 8-year-olds.”

If you have a teenager in the house, you probably know that Internet usage continues to be a staple of daily life.

The question is how best to harness the creative and analytical skills of these young people, and really engage them in the digital world. Online environments for preteens are a bit sparse. Collier mentions Club Penguin, a popular kids’ MMO, as well as Whyville, a gaming and learning website.

As it turns out, one of the most effective properties for engaging kids’ creative skills is a game called LittleBigPlanetLittleBigPlanet is a puzzle platformer for the PS3 and Vita–players guide the character, Sackboy, through a series of complex environments. The game also allows players to create customized stickers, as well as build their own puzzles. Customized content can be shared in the online community and rated.

Level-design takes creativity, logic, and lots of hard work. LittleBigPlanet encourages community interaction by letting users upload their levels, play and rate levels created by others, and leave messages for other players. This community participation and feedback is meaningful for kids of any age.

Check out the study for more game recommendations! And let us know if you have any suggestions in the comments below.

(Source: Net Family News)

Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.