New research from Germany finds kids aren’t the Web wizards we think they are. They’re using the Internet for the same things that have fired kids up for decades: interacting with peers, finding entertainment, and goofing off. But all this fancy Web 2.0 collaborative creation we bloggers get all excited about?

Odd as it may seem, the first generation that cannot imagine life without the Internet doesn’t actually consider the medium particularly important, and indeed shuns some of the latest web technologies. Only 3 percent of young people keep their own blog, and no more than 2 percent regularly contribute to Wikipedia or other comparable open source projects.

Similarly, most young people in Germany ignore social bookmarking websites like Delicious and photo-sharing portals such as Flickr and Picasa. Apparently the netizens of the future couldn’t care less about the collaborative delights of Web 2.0 [Manfred Dworschak, “The Internet Generation Prefers the Real World,” Spiegel Online International, 2010.08.06].

Teachers, take note: this study finds “no evidence whatsoever that the Internet is the dominating influence in the lives of young people.” If anyone tells you the Internet has made kids so different that we can only reach them with high-tech hypermedia, ask them to show you some empirical studies to back their claims. Dworschak says they’ll be looking for quite some time: aside from a few outlying wunderkinder, today’s kids aren’t so different from yesterday’s.

Teachers, don’t let the media fool you into thinking the kids are experts. They may be pretty good at clicking around to find their friends and new music videos, but they still need a big dose of instruction in information literacy so they can use the Internet productively.

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