For parents who don't understand why kids are using Facebook and MySpace, Vanessa Van Petten , author of You're Grounded, has produced a video using her own reasons for using Facebook to explain teens' use of social networking sites. She begins with "Why wouldn't you use (social networking sites, like Facebook or MySpace)"?
Below is a summary of Vanessa points:
Social networking sites are used for
- match teens' methods of socializing
- stay up with friends' lives
- keep up with many more people than before
- create a wider network of more surface friends, but still have close friends
- make loose connections with lots of people
- support causes
- join groups
- plan events
- fit communication style and purpose
3. extension of themselves
- gauge what a person is about, their style, and their likes
- know more about the person
- express style or persona
According to Vanessa, posting interests, movies, books, and likes is not giving up privacy, but rather serves as explanations of herself and a means to connect and communicate with others.
Vanessa's explanation may help parents understand teens' gravitation toward Facebook and Myspace. Vanessa's explanation is probably on target for those teens who daily active users.
Using a in-house case study, I decided to ask why each of my children uses Facebook.
Certainly, Vanessa's explanation is the closest to my oldest's (college student) use of Facebook. She uses Facebook to lurk at what her friends are doing. She checks what her friends have changed in their pages, photos and groups. Her favorite applications are compare people and bumper stickers. For her, Facebook is all about being social. Some have called her habits an addiction.
My son (high school) says he using Facebook as a communication tool. He checks regularly to see if he has new messages. He would not qualify as an active user. He uses other technologies, particularly online gaming, as a social activity. He dislikes the games and applications in Facebook.
My youngest (middle school) uses Myspace and Facebook "because that is where my friends are." She likes the games and applications in Facebook.
I also asked a friend (college student) who happened to be at our house. He says he uses Facebook as a means to keep up with friends he does not see very often.
The best explanation is that these sites are social and serve as an extension of the social life of teens. In my observation, their use mimics their real-life communication and social style.
It is also important to point out that teens use multiple communication tools, including texting (SMS) and instant messaging. Facebook and MySpace are not a stand-alone communication tools. My kids use of these tools varies, nevertheless they use multiple communication channels.