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Twitter, Facebook and Co. – good for teens and the First Amendment?

September 19, 2011

Twitter, Facebook and Co. – good for teens and the First Amendment?
Source: Knight Foundation

While social media have been blamed for teen ills from narcissism to cyberbullying, a new study offers an inspiring perspective: as social media use has grown in the United States, so has students’ appreciation for the First Amendment. The national study was released today to coincide with the celebration of Constitution Day. It was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Future of the First Amendment study found:

  • Both social media use and First Amendment appreciation are growing among high school students. More than three-quarters of students use social media several times a week to get news and information. Meanwhile, the percentage of students who believe “the First Amendment goes too far” in protecting the rights of citizens has dropped to a quarter (24 percent) in 2011 from nearly half (45 percent) in 2006.
  • There is a clear, positive relationship between social media use and appreciation of the First Amendment. Fully 91 percent of students who use social networking daily to get news and information agree that “people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions.” But only 77 percent of those who never use social networks to get news agree that unpopular opinions should be allowed.
  • Still, many teachers believe social media harms education. Most teachers also do not support free expression for students. Only 35 percent, for example, agree that “high school students should be allowed to report controversial issues in their student newspapers without the approval of school authorities.” In addition, teachers are more inclined to think that the emergence of the newest forms of digital media have harmed (49 percent) rather than helped (39 percent) student learning.

+ Full Report (PDF)

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