The Pew Internet American Life Project conducts regular research into the use of technology by all sectors of the US population. Their latest research focuses on teenagers and their use of Social Media sites. Here are some of the key findings from the report:
Teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than they did in the past. For the five different types of personal information that we measured in both 2006 and 2012, each is significantly more likely to be shared by teen social media users in our most recent survey.
Teen Twitter use has grown significantly: 24% of online teens use Twitter, up from 16% in 2011.
The typical (median) teen Facebook user has 300 friends, while the typical teen Twitter user has 79 followers.
Focus group discussions with teens show that they have waning enthusiasm for Facebook, disliking the increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful “drama,” but they keep using it because participation is an important part of overall teenage socializing.
60% of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private, and most report high levels of
confidence in their ability to manage their settings.
Teens take other steps to shape their reputation, manage their networks, and mask information they don’t want others to know; 74% of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends list.
Teen social media users do not express a high level of concern about third-party access to their data; just 9% say they are “very” concerned.
On Facebook, increasing network size goes hand in hand with network variety, information sharing, and personal information management.
In broad measures of online experience, teens are considerably more likely to report positive experiences than negative ones. For instance, 52% of online teens say they have had an experience online that made them feel good about themselves.
The research is from the US, but I do think there are messages to take from this that are applicable to the Australian experience. My discussions with students indicate that Facebook is on the wane, with many gravitating to sites like Instagram for their social network experience. My observations in discussions with parents is that Instagram is not seen as much of a threat to their children as is Facebook. There’s more of a comfortable willingness to allow their children to participate there. I think we need to help our parents understand that sites like Instagram are social networks, not just photo sharing places. They require just as much open discussion about things like oversharing, managing privacy settings and who you add as a friend as does a site like Facebook.
There are some very encouraging signs in their key findings with quite a high percentage of teenagers actively managing privacy settings and taking steps to manage their reputation online. What does concern me is teenagers apparent low level of concern about 3rd party access to their data. The report says that insights from focus groups suggests that teenagers may not have a good sense that their data is being used by any third parties. Again, this finding echoes some of my experiences with students who seem unaware that sites may be sharing information or mining their data to discover their likes and dislikes. We do need to find room in our busy curriculums to have discussions with students about social media and what might be happening with their data. An informed citizen is in a position to make sound decisions, and surely that’s what we want for our young people in today’s world.
I’d encourage you to follow this link and take a read of the full report.