Using the internet at school can lead to teenagers losing their confidence and becoming frustrated, a new study by a North lecturer claims.
Most teenagers lack the more complex information gathering skills necessary for internet searching, ultimately using the internet inefficiently, says Dr Alison Pickard of Northumbria University.
Dr Pickard has just completed a four-year research study into the subject and will present her findings at the fifth International Northumbria Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services next week.
Dr Pickard, a Northumbria University lecturer in research methods and user behaviour in the division of information and communication studies at the school of informatics, spent two years observing, interviewing and conducting focus groups with 13, 14 and 15-year-olds from four diverse schools in the North-East.
"Schools are spending a fortune on computer facilities and access to the internet but I wanted to look at how well these resources were being used and if they were instrumental in removing barriers to learning," she said. "While the internet is an amazing resource, kids need to be empowered with information literacy skills to be able to use the internet properly."
As the internet's reputation as a source of information is widely accepted, Dr Pickard says it compounds the problem for young people with teenagers blaming themselves for failing to use the internet effectively.
Dr Pickard said: "I watched teenagers blame themselves over and over because they were unable to find the information they were looking for.
"They thought they were stupid and I watched their confidence gradually being eroded. Many of them take on the failings of the system."
One method of improving the situation for young people would be to encourage peer tutoring but this is disapproved of in all of the schools Dr Pickard looked at.
She said: "The idea that kids are messing around when they work together is an understandable assumption but in fact they learn very effectively from each other.
"It means kids with access to a home computer with superior IT skills can teach others in an informal setting."
Dr Pickard believes that providing young people with the skills to research, retrieve and use information from the internet is essential. She also backs Ofsted's suggestion that qualified chartered librarians should be in all secondary schools.
"There is such a wealth of information on the internet and although things are improving, much of it is still disorganised and unstructured and always will be.
"If we are opening the floodgates of information we have to provide our young people with suitable equipment to help them navigate their way around."