A major study into teenage development has insisted that everyday tech pursuits like social networking, video games and surfing the internet plays an important role.

A three-year research project into 800 kids insists that teenagers are learning skills that are highly relevant to the modern world in their leisure time.

"They are learning the technological skills and literacy needed for the contemporary world," report author, Dr Mimi Ito told the BBC.

"They are learning how to communicate online, craft a public identity, create a home page, post links.

"All these things were regarded as sophisticated 10 years ago but young people today take them for granted,"

Education

The research is being sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, who believe that this could signal a sea-change in education.

"Learning today is becoming increasingly peer-based and networked, and this is important to consider as we begin to re-imagine education in the 21st century," said the MacArthur Foundation's Connie Yowell.

New role

Dr Ito believes that the research shows that parents must find a new role in supporting their children but not becoming invasive.

"While most parents know very little about what their kids are doing online, they are struggling to give real guidance and help," added Dr Ito.

"At the more social 'hanging out' layer, young people don't want their parents or teachers on their MySpace or Facebook page.

"But in the interest-driven side, there is a more productive role for parents and teachers to play that will help them connect with kids and their lives."