Today, students report that they are spending almost as much time using social networking services and Web sites as they spend watching television. Among teens who use social networking sites, that amounts to about 9 hours a week online, compared to 10 hours a week watching television.

A new study by the National School Boards Association and Grunwald Associates LLC exploring the online behaviors of U.S. teens and ‘tweens shows that 96 percent of students with online access use social networking technologies, such as chatting, text messaging, blogging, and visiting online communities such as Facebook, MySpace, and Webkinz. Further, students report that one of the most common topics of conversation on the social networking scene is education.

Nearly 60 percent of online students report discussing education-related topics such as college or college planning, learning outside of school, and careers. And 50 percent of online students say they talk specifically about schoolwork.

[The study was carried out with support from Microsoft, News Corporation, and Verizon. ]

“There is no doubt that these online teen hangouts are having a huge influence on how kids today are creatively thinking and behaving,” said Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association. “The challenge for school boards and educators is that they have to keep pace with how students are using these tools in positive ways and consider how they might incorporate this technology into the school setting.”

Students report they are engaging in highly creative activities on social networking internet sites including writing, art, and contributing to collaborative online projects whether or not these activities are related to schoolwork. Almost half of students (49 percent) say that they have uploaded pictures they have made or photos they have taken, and more than one in five students (22 percent) report that they have uploaded video they have created.

While most schools have rules against social networking activities, almost 70 percent of districts report having student Web site programs, and nearly half report their schools participate in online collaborative projects with other schools and in online pen pal or other international programs. Further, more than a third say their schools and/or students have blogs, either officially or in the context of instruction.

The report, “Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social and Educational Networking,” is based on three surveys: an online survey of nearly 1,300 9- to 17-year-olds, an online survey of more than 1,000 parents, and telephone interviews with 250 school districts leaders who make decisions on Internet policy.