Teens learning online about rights, book says

U.S. high school students who blog, read online news sources and chat online regularly are more likely to understand and support their First Amendment rights, according to a new book.

Among the findings reported in “Future of the First Amendment: The Digital Media, Civic Education and Free Expression Rights in the Nation’s High Schools”:

* Frequent users of online news sources were 12 percent more appreciative of First Amendment rights – the freedoms of speech, the press, religion and assembly, plus the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances — than those who don’t get news online.

*Students who blog to publish their own content show even higher levels of support.

*Seventy-three percent of chat-room users agree that music lyrics should be allowed, even if deemed offensive, compared to 65 percent of those who don’t use chat rooms.

The book was written by Kenneth Dautrich, associate professor of public policy at the University of Connecticut, and David Yalof, associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, with Mark Hugo Lopez, a research assistant professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.

The book was based on information gleaned from the Knight Future of the First Amendment surveys conducted on behalf of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

More than 100,000 high school students were asked 28 questions related to their knowledge of and opinions on the First Amendment.

The initial 2004 survey found that three-fourths of U.S. teens who responded did not know or care about the First Amendment.

With additional information from a follow-up survey in 2006, the authors explored the impact of digital media and recent advances in information technology on students’ appreciation of the First Amendment.

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