WASHINGTON, D.C., March 28, 2000 — According to an independent survey of over 1,700 households, most families view the Internet as a positive new force in their children’s lives for learning and communication. The survey, commissioned by the National School Boards Foundation (NSBF), the research arm of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and supported by the Children’s Television Workshop and Microsoft, concluded that most parents and children are pleased by their experiences online.
“We commissioned the survey to find out from parents themselves and from the children in their families not only how they use the Internet but what kind of perception there is around the Internet and its perceived impact on their lives,”
said Anne Bryant, executive director of the NSBA and a trustee of the NSBF.
Conducted by Grunwald Associates, a leading independent market research and consulting firm specializing in technology, the survey sampled 1,735 households nationwide, including parents of children aged 2 to 17 and children themselves aged 9 to 17 from the same households.
“The survey showed us that parents want their children to use the Internet,”
said John Litten, program manager for youth and learning at Microsoft.
“Parents believe that the Internet provides their children with a wealth of educational opportunities that will lead them to brighter futures.”
Funding the survey is part of an ongoing commitment by Microsoft to ensure a positive and safe online experience for children. In a speech he gave last October, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates outlined Microsoft’s commitment to preparing
children born during the past decade, to use the Internet responsibly. These initiatives include Stay Safe Online, an interactive program narrated by NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal that is designed to teach children important safety lessons critical to having a positive and safe online experience. Microsoft is trying out Stay Safe Online at new technology centers in 15 Boys & Girls Clubs around the country and will roll the program out on the Internet later this spring.
Results of the survey were announced in Washington DC where Sesame Street’s Big Bird, a creation of the Children’s Television Workshop, received an urgent email from Gates that read,
“Keep using the Internet, Big Bird. It’s a great tool to help kids (and birds) learn.”
Big Bird’s reply was,
“Wow — who’d of thought someone who builds gates would know so much about the Internet!”
According to the survey, titled
“Safe & Smart: Research and Guidelines for Children’s Use of the Internet,”
the primary reason families buy computers and access the Internet from home is for their children’s education. Additionally, educational use of the Internet goes beyond learning activities that are required for schoolwork — children frequently go online for learning activities unconnected to school, such as pursuing information about hobbies and interests.
“Children’s Television Workshop was revolutionary in its championing of television as a way to help children learn,”
said Gary E. Knell, president and chief executive officer of the Children’s Television Workshop.
“And to this day, 31 years later, we continue to act on the now proven fact that the educational power of media, including the Internet, can help children reach their highest potential.”
The survey found that Internet usage does not disrupt children’s everyday habits and their typical, healthy activities. In fact, according to the survey, children who use the Internet spend less time watching television; more time reading newspapers, magazines and books; more time interacting with family and friends; more time playing outdoors; and more time doing arts and crafts.
“The Internet’s becoming a connection tool as opposed to an isolation tool,”
The survey also found that schools are narrowing the “digital divide” by providing Internet access to children who otherwise would not have had access.
“The efforts of school districts to focus on technology, the wonderful partnerships that have been created with businesses like Microsoft that are partnering with districts to increase their uses of and know-how around technology is paying off,”
“That, to me, is the most exciting news of the study.”
Another conclusion indicated that low-income families have a particularly strong belief that the Internet can be a vehicle for their children’s advancement.
While the survey found that girls use the Internet as much as boys, it showed that their usage was different. Girls are more likely to use the Internet for education, communication and schoolwork, while boys more often use the Internet for entertainment and games.
Finally, parents generally believe that the Internet is a safe place for children, although they do have some concerns. Overall, they are satisfied with the content available for their children on the Internet and most have a good deal of awareness about their children’s Internet usage.
“Now that we have additional information on how students are using the Internet at home and at school, we can look at content in products like Encarta Africana and see how its resources can be provided through the Web,”
In response to the results of the survey, the National School Boards Foundation announced a call to action for parents and educators as they manage Internet usage among young people.
Litten added that Microsoft would continue to work with the NSBA to facilitate online dialogs among teachers, parents and school administrators:
“We hope to make it as easy for them to connect as it is for the kids.”
Gates views Microsoft as a technology leader with the responsibility of ensuring that every teacher has the resources they need to make the most of technology in the classroom. Microsoft’s Connected Learning Community Grants provide significant cash and software donations on a local level with the goal of using information technology to enhance learning and communication for disadvantaged communities. Recent grants were awarded to fund innovative access and training programs for residents of low-income housing facilities and to support interactive science and technology projects at science museums.
Through technology training programs such as the Microsoft Classroom Teacher Network and email@example.com as well as rich learning resources such as the Encarta Africana 2000 encyclopedia, Microsoft is working with teachers, educational organizations, community groups and businesses to make learning tools and educational content widely available. The Microsoft Lesson Connection, a collaboration with Tudor Publishing and Classroom Connect, gives teachers and curriculum administrators the ability to search thousands of lesson plans on the Internet to find those that meet their curriculum needs.
To help more teachers develop skills and strategies to use technology in the classroom, Microsoft in January announced a $344 million (estimated retail value) software donation — the largest in the company’s history — in support of Intel’s Teach to the Future program, a worldwide initiative to provide technology training to more than 400,000 classroom teachers.
On February 8, Microsoft announced Kids Passport, a service that can help safeguard a child’s personal information online by enabling parents to decide on a site-by-site basis whether they want to allow their child to use participating Web sites’ services that collect and/or disclose personally identifiable information. Kids Passport also provides third parties with an easy and effective way to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act. The Act, which goes into effect April 21, requires that all Web sites obtain parental consent before collecting or disclosing personal information, such as an email address, portal address and telephone number, from children under age 13.
Microsoft is also a founding member and active participant in GetNetWise ( http://www.getnetwise.org/ ), a program that provides critical resources to parents and caregivers to help ensure the Internet is a safe, educational and entertaining place for young people to explore.
The National School Boards Association is a national advocacy organization representing the 95,000 local school board members who govern the nation’s public schools. The organization’s mission is to foster excellence and equity in public elementary and secondary education throughout the United States through local school board leadership.
“The information highway has not passed anyone by,”
“Parents, no matter what their economic level, want the best for their children. And they see that the best for their children includes technology capability. Kids have got to be tech-savvy, and when they’re tech-savvy, they’re going to go places.”