Monday, November 24, 2008

Teenagers 'learn social skills online'

This will be a nasty surprise for the do-gooders who are sure that computers are bad for kids

A study of 800 people, conducted over three years -- including 5000 hours of observation - has concluded that teens can learn social skills online. While this may seem fairly obvious to some, it is a valuable tool in the battle between generations. "It might surprise parents to learn that it is not a waste of time for their teens to hang out online," said Mizuko Ito, lead author of the study by the private, grant-making MacArthur Foundation.

"There are myths about kids spending time online - that it is dangerous or making them lazy," said Ms Ito, a researcher at the University of California. "But we found that spending time online is essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age," she said.

For the study, described as the most extensive ever conducted in the US on teens and their use of digital media, researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley, interviewed more than 800 young people and their parents over three years. They also spent more than 5000 hours observing teens on sites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube.

"There is a generation gap in how youth and adults view the value of online activity. "Adults tend to be in the dark about what youth are doing online, and often view online activity as risky or an unproductive distraction," it said, while "youth understand the social value of online activity," the study found.

The results could also help combat the stereotype of antisocial geeks. "Kids learn on the internet in a self-directed way, by looking around for information they are interested in, or connecting with others who can help them," it said. "This is a big departure from how they are asked to learn in most schools, where the teacher is the expert and there is a fixed set of content to master."

The study also found that while many young people are gaining new literacy and technical skills, "they are also facing new challenges in how to manage their visibility and social relationships online". "Online media, messages, and profiles that young people post can travel beyond expected audiences and are often difficult to eradicate after the fact," the study said.


Motorbike riders risk impotence, say Japanese doctors

Japs must be pretty fragile. I was a biker for years without any problems. Falling off was not so good though

Men who ride motorcycles are at risk of impotence and urinary problems because the vibration of the engine damages nerves in their penises, a study has found. A survey of more than 230 motorcyclists who rode their bikes for about three hours every weekend found almost 70 per cent had problems gaining an erection or emptying their bladders.

Doctors in Japan, who published two studies on the dangers in the International Journal Of Impotence Research, said seats on most motorcycles put undue pressure on the perineum, the area between the anus and the scrotum, and restricted blood flow to the penis. Vibrations from the engine also caused a decrease in two growth hormones in the bladder and prostate related to bladder relaxation.

Impotence affects most males during their lives and can be caused by emotional issues, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking or alcohol. But all men should avoid sitting on hard bicycle or motorcycle seats, particularly seats with thin, pointed ends, for long periods to prevent compression of pelvic floor muscles, Impotence Australia chief executive officer Brett McCann said yesterday. All men in the study had been sexually active in the past six months and none had any illnesses.

About 76 per cent of riders aged 40 to 49, and 93 per cent of those aged 50 to 59, reported severe erectile dysfunction, compared with 37 per cent and 42 per cent respectively among those who did not ride motorcycles.

John Sbrocchi, of Wamberal, has been riding a scooter to work for 2½ years. His sex life had not suffered. Scooters normally have wider, softer seats than motorcycles, but vibrations can still affect the genitals. "I do have urinary flow issues, but I'm not putting it down to the scooter," Mr Sbrocchi said. "I'm a man of 62 and when you get to that age you get prostate problems. I think scooters are one of life's greatest innovations so it would take more than that to put me off."


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