WASHINGTON – Use of the Internet has become an increasingly important feature of the learning environment for teenagers both inside and outside the classroom. Asked about their most recent major school report, 71% of teenagers with Internet access said they relied Internet sources the most in completing the project. That compares to 24% who said they relied library sources the most.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that 73% of youth in middle school and high school (those ages 12-17) have Internet access. That comes to about 17 million children. And a survey of 754 youth in that age bracket who have used the Internet found that:

* 94% of online youth say they use the Internet for school research and 78% say they believe the Internet helps them with schoolwork.

* 41% of online teens say they use email and instant messaging to contact teachers or classmates about schoolwork.

* 34% of online youth have downloaded an online study aid.

“Most online teens see the Internet as a giant homework helper and many use email and instant messaging to get their friends and teachers to help hem when they are stuck on assignments,” says Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “Those are certainly the main reasons that parents hope their children are online.”

A survey of those teenagers” parents found that 87% believe that the Internet helps students with their schoolwork, 55% say the Internet has been a good thing for their children, and 55% believe that knowledge of how to use the Internet is essential for children to learn in order to be successful.

Of course, the ease of gathering information online has a darker side. About a fifth of online teens (18%) say they know of someone who has used the Internet to cheat on a paper or test.