Friday, January 4, 2008

Teens use of social networking sites

This blog post is the beginning of the conversation that I will have with a group of professionals who work with youth. This month, I will be presenting information on teens' use of Facebook. Specifically, I am speaking to a group of 4-H regional agents. The goal of 4-H is to develop citizenship, leadership, and life skills of youth through mostly experiential learning programs.

A few findings from the Pew Internet & American Life Project report on Teens and social media are:

  • 93% of teens use the internet.
  • 55% of online teens ages 12-17 have created a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace.

...older teens are more likely to visit these sites than younger teens (47% of those age 12-14 say they go to social networking sites compared with 63% of 15-17 year-olds).

Note that both Facebook and Myspace Terms of Agreement "require" one to be 14 years of age to eligible for an account. Obviously, some teens lie about their age when creating an account.

Content creation for teens
Teens use social networking sites and other social media for content creation.

  • 39% of online teens share their own artistic creations online, such as artwork, photos, stories, or videos, up from 33% in 2004.
  • 33% create or work on webpages or blogs for others, including those for groups they belong to, friends, or school assignments, basically unchanged from 2004 (32%).
  • 26% remix content they find online into their own creations, up from 19% in 2004.
  • 70% social networking teens report reading the blogs of others.
Most teens who upload photos online consistently share them with some restrictions. Online adults are more lax in restricting access to their online photos.

Communication trends
Multi-channel teens are super communicators who will use any tool at their disposal. Cell phones, instant messaging applications, and social networking channels rank highest in their communication choices.

  • 14% of all teens report sending emails to their friends every day, making it the least popular form of daily social communication.
  • Face-to-face interaction has shown little change although social networking has increased.

Participation is key to teens

  • 76% have posted comments to a friend’s blog on a social networking site.
  • Online teens as a whole are quite active offline.
  • 50% of the online teens in this survey report being part of a school sports program.
  • 36% report being part of a school club like drama or language.
  • 42% report taking part in some other extracurricular activity like band.
  • 58% report participating in an after-school club or sports program that is not affiliated with school.
Social networking sites for teens is just that--social
The "social" in social network is the operative term for many teens – nearly all teens who use the networks say that they use the sites to keep in touch with friends and make social plans.

  • 91% of all social networking teens say they use the sites to stay in touch with friends they see frequently.
  • 82% use the sites to stay in touch with friends they rarely see in person.
Teens from lower income families and single parent families
Teens living in households earning less than $50,000 per year and teens from single parent homes are more likely to blog than those living in higher-income households and in married-parents homes.

  • 35% of online teens whose parents fall in the lower income brackets have created an online journal or blog.
  • 24% of those in the higher income brackets have created an online journal or blog.
  • 42% of teens living with single parents keep a blog.
  • 25% of teens living with married parents.
What do I make of the report?
Teens want to socialize (well, duh).
Teens use several tools to socialize.
Teens want to create.
Teens want to contribute.
Teens want to be inclusive.

Facebook, in part, has become a popular social networking site, because it is a one-stop shop for creating, sharing, blogging, playing, and communicating.

The best way to find out about these tools is to use them.

Create a Facebook account and see what the social interaction is all about. Take a lesson from the teens. Use Facebook to keep up with people you see face-to-face on a regular basis.

  • Learn how these sites can be useful to your own professionalism. A Summary of Advantages of Facebook provides a brief list why Facebook is a useful tool for adults. If you want to learn about Facebook, use Facebook.
  • Learn how to use the other communication tools. I personally cannot imagine any parent of a teenager not knowing how to communicate using (SMS) and instant messaging. Teens are active--on the go. These technologies offer a non-intrusive way to communicate throughout the day (and night).
Don't plan on using social networking sites as a way to one-way communication to market your organization or your cause. First, and foremost, if you are new to social networking sites, use these sites to:

  • Learn about your target audience.
  • Learn how your target audience uses these sites.
  • Learn about your target audience's interests.
  • Learn about their opinions.
Is Facebook an end-all product? Absolutely not. Clearly, teenagers are using it, and young adults and professionals are using it, as well. Teens and adults use multiple tools to communicate, Facebook is just another tool.

Source: Teens and social media
Pew Internet and American Life Project
December 19, 2007
Authors: Amanda Lenhart, Senior Research Specialist, Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist, Alexandra Rankin Macgill, Project Manager

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