Facebook users better off socially

Facebook, it turns out, isn’t just a waste of time. People who use it have more close friends, get more social support and report being more politically engaged than those who don’t, according to a new study on Americans and social networks.

The report comes as Facebook, Twitter and even the buttoned-up, career-oriented LinkedIn continue to engrain themselves in our daily lives and change the way we interact with friends, co-workers and long-lost high school buddies.

Released Thursday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the report also found that Facebook users are more trusting than their non-networked counterparts.

When accounting for all other factors — such as age, education level and race — Facebook users were 43 percent more likely than other Internet users to say that “most people can be trusted.” Compared with people who don’t use the Internet, Facebook users were three times more trusting.

The reason for this is not entirely clear. One possible explanation: People on social networks are more willing to trust others because they interact with a larger number of people in a more diverse setting, said Keith Hampton, author of the study.

Study: Risky online behavior common

Parents and their teenage children regularly engage in risky online behavior, according to the survey of U.S. Internet users commissioned by computer security company GFI Software.

More than half of the parents whose home computers have been infected with a virus said it has happened more than once. And while 89 percent of parents said they have antivirus software, a quarter of them said they don’t know if they update it. Without updates, antivirus software is useless against the latest malicious attacks.

Of the teens who responded, 24 percent said they have visited a website meant for adults. More than half who do so said they lied about their age to get into the sites. Such sites are often designed to spread malicious software, which can infect the computers of people who visit.

The survey of 1,070 adults and their teenage children was conducted March 22 to April 5.

Among the survey’s other findings:

11 percent of teens said they have been bullied online or by text messages. More girls reported being bullied than boys.

79 percent of teens said they own a cellphone. Of this group, 29 percent have a smartphone.

More than half of the households said both the parent and the teen had a Facebook account. Of these, 87 percent were “friends” with each other on the site.

83 percent of teenagers with Facebook accounts indicated that they understand how to use privacy settings, so they may hide content from their parents.

LightSquared granted extension

Federal regulators have granted the Virginia company LightSquared a two-week extension to report on recent tests that aimed to determine whether its proposed high-speed wireless broadband network would cripple GPS systems around the country.

A group created to study the extent of potential interference from LightSquared’s proposed network was to report its findings on Wednesday to the Federal Communications Commission.

Mandated by the FCC, the group is controlled by LightSquared but includes representatives from GPS equipment makers and federal agencies that rely on GPS technology.

LightSquared asked for an extension to July 1 to file the test results amid growing concern that its proposed network would jam GPS systems used for everything from aviation and military operations to public safety and consumer navigation devices.