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However, the researchers also voiced concern that some content on the boards might reinforce or promote self-harm.
A larger, longer study would help, the researchers note.
He studied 322 elementary and middle-school kids in New England.
The students answered questions about the Internet's technical and social complexity, including: In terms of understanding the Internet, kids' age was more important than gender, history of Internet use, frequency of Internet use, and participation in informal classes, Yan found.
Web sites don't usually involve math, and math scores didn't change in the study.
When membership information was available, most members claimed to be young women in their teens and 20s.
Over two months, the researchers studied more than 3,200 postings on the message boards.
Monitored chats "provided a relatively safe haven for participants who present themselves as young and female," write Subrahmanyam and colleagues. youths aren't the only ones going online with sex on their minds.
It's hard to know if chatters were who they claimed to be, the researchers point out. A study of 778 teens aged 15-18 in the African nation of Ghana shows that two-thirds had gone online, mainly at cafes with Internet access. More than half of the teenage Internet users had sought health information, and sexual health information (including sexually transmitted diseases) was a leading health topic.