Social networks: Just kids being kids
11/10/2011 4:06:00 PM
Yesterday we reported on a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which explored teen use of social networks and how those networks are influencing relationships with both their peers and their parents.
Perhaps surprisingly, the lasting impression I got from reading the report is how closely social networks appear to mirror real life. Yes, 88 percent of teens have witnessed someone being mean on a social network, but 69 percent believe that teens using social networks are mostly kind to each other. Yes, 41 percent of teens have had at least one negative experience on a social network, but 78 percent say they have had at least one positive experience.
Again and again the report leaves you thinking that the experience for teens on social networks is not that different from their experiences in regular life. Yes, some kids are mean online, but then some kids are mean offline. Some kids come out with the occasional crass or cruel remark on Facebook, but then kids do that in the schoolyard as well.
The notion that teens’ lives online mirror their lives offline may come as a shock to some people, who see the Internet in general and Facebook in particular as a breeding ground for meanness and bullying. Instead, we see a rather familiar portrait of teens trying to get along in a world of uncertain expectations, shifting friendships, and over-active hormones.
In fact, there are quite a few positives that can be taken from the Pew report. First, 81 percent of teens say they are using at least some of the available privacy settings, so their social networking activity is not in full public view.
It also appears that an overwhelming majority of parents have had a conversation with their child about what to post and what not to post on social networks. A majority of those parents regularly check on their kids’ online activity, and many of them even friend their kids if they are also users of social networks. The report points out that parental involvement doesn’t always prevent online problems, but again, that’s also the case in the real world.
Even the tendency of teens to friend as many people as possible may have a positive effect, breaking down some of the cliques and social factions that dominate middle and high school life.
All in all, the report is a comforting picture of teens hanging out on the Internet much the same way that they hang out in real life. It seems that kids will be kids, even if they happen to be on Facebook.
Comment by LG, posted 11/17/2011, 1:05 PM:
Again, I guess we fall prey to fear of the unknown. We will always hear about the negative and even disturbing things that happen on Facebook which are relatively infrequent compared to the frequent, positive things that are posted. Too bad kindness is not newsworthy!