Children should get more out of computers, a report says.
Children should be taught to use the internet "more creatively", rather than spending their time playing games and chatting to friends, a report recommends.
Research carried out at the London School of Economics found youngsters were often at the forefront of family computer use.
But schools and parents should do more to encourage children to participate in online political discussions and produce their own websites, it added.
The report, Children on the Internet, also raises fears of commercial exploitation and exposure to pornography.
Its author, Professor Sonia Livingstone, said: "Young people were still relatively trusting and uncritical about online material.
"While the industry, government, schools and parents should continue to highlight risks, there are also some exciting opportunities being missed for engaging with young people online.
"Parents themselves could develop their skills more to keep up with their children."
Children without internet access at home felt excluded from talking to their fellow pupils, the report added.
However, storylines in television soap operas, such as Coronation Street, had made young computer users more aware of the dangers of paedophiles operating through chat rooms.
Stephen Carrick-Davies, chief executive of Childnet International, a charity devoted to internet safety, said: "It is very encouraging to see that young people are more aware of the online dangers.
"However, it is crucial that we redouble our efforts to ensure they are better supported in using the internet more creatively in designing authentic youth-focused online environments.
"Helping them to move on from just being the technical internet expert in the home to using this most amazing of global mediums to its full creative and positive potential is the next challenge."
The proportion of UK families owning a computer was 50% in 2001, according to government figures.
Researchers from the LSE talked to 14 focus groups of nine to 19 year olds for the study.