We like to make fun of old people because they don't know how to use the Internet. But a new study suggests young people don't really know how the damn Google machine works, either.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago, showed that many college students do not understand the basic mechanics of search engines. They just blindly click the first thing that comes up, no matter what it is!

A female health-sciences major described her search routine as follows: "I usually click on the first thing that I see." Asked to clarify how she decides to pick the first result, she emphasized, "Well, I know the ones that are [...] in here [pointing to the shaded Sponsored Link section on a Google results page] they're the most relevant to what I'm looking for." Interestingly, in this case she was pointing to a highlighted link labeled as a Sponsored Link by Google.

Also, college students think MSN Encarta is the best source for information?

A male social-science major expressed confidence in the site by noting the following: "Here's MSN Encarta, I know it's a pretty good encyclopedia." Similar sentiment about the brand was echoed by a female health-sciences major: "It's on Encarta, it looks like it's pretty reliable."

Then they took off their Oakleys and realized they weren't in 1998 anymore, dude. And many of them said they trusted .org sites more than .com sites, even though any schmuck can get a .org site. Basically, the problem is that young people are obsessed with big-name brands ("Google," "Microsoft") and therefore blindly trust them to offer up the best information on the Internet without doing much independent verification.

But, hey, at least they don't go to their gmail by searching for "gmail" in Google like some grandmothers we know. Hate that. [ReadWriteWeb]

[Picture of young person ineptly using the Internet by Shutterstock.com]