The Pew Internet study on Teens and Online Social Networks shows that the amount of teens using social networks continues to rise. While in 2006 just over half of those aged 12 to 17 used social networks in some fashion, now nearly three-quarters do. Along with texting, it's becoming the main form of communication for the age group.
The Changing Social Network
Online social networking refers to online communities where subscribers post journal entries and a number of other forms of media content in order to generate and maintain relationships with other registered members. In the case of teen social networking, it opens an avenue for teens to engage in discussions based on common interests with other teens, and also provides them with a way of keeping in touch. New social networks are created all the time, but they're not going to become useful unless they have a lot of users.
MySpace and Facebook
While at one time it seemed as if MySpace was the chosen social network for teens and Facebook more for adults, that trend is changing. More teens are creating profiles on Facebook than ever before. While teens can network with each other on MySpace, on Facebook they can network with each other as well as their families. Additionally, MySpace doesn't have as many options for games and apps or as many messaging options. Facebook is more utilitarian.
Twitter is still used more often by adults than teens, but that statistic is on the rise as well. Being less conversational than MySpace or Facebook, it doesn't seem to have the same draw. It's used more as an informational source than a tool for conversing, and that just doesn't hold the same allure for the younger age group who are looking to share as much as they can about their lives.
These sites are not only hugely popular with teens, but also with young adults, and have become a basic part of everyday life for many. These networks offer more than just entertainment. They provide opportunities for interaction and self-expression, a support network of friends, and more. The following are some of the less popular social networks:
Teen-Specific Social Networking Sites
Along with the big three networks, there are also several social networking sites that cater specifically to teens and young adults. Some of them aren't much more than a virtual meat market for the teen set and should be avoided, as they encourage the meeting of strangers, a practice that can be dangerous for anyone, let alone teens. It's important to be sure to always investigate a site fully before joining and putting up a profile with your information. Some of the teen social networks include:
Social Networks Usage by Teens
As the social networks themselves have changed to keep up with their users' needs, the reasons they're being used have changed as well, especially by teens. It's an undefined world, as there has never been a generation that came of age using social networking, and it's for that reason that the whole idea of it makes parents very uneasy.
The Pew Internet Survey shows that while at one time teens used social networking sites to sends messages to each other, they don't do so as much now. They also aren't blogging as much, or commenting on others' blogs as much. What teens are doing instead is posting comments to a friend's wall or page, or even viewing and posting comments to pictures. This shows that they're speaking to each other more publicly and in shorter amounts than they did back in 2006.
Recommended Tips for Safety
It's clear that social networking plays an important role in teens' lives today, but remember, it provides two-way communication. Before a teen signs up for a social networking account it's important to discuss safety measures including:
- Talking to their parents.
- Not posting any personal information including phone numbers or email addresses for themselves or anyone else
- Never posting anything they wouldn't want parents, teachers, family members or future employers to see
- Never arranging to meet someone offline
- Only adding people to their network if they know them in real life
- Setting privacy settings to require approval for people to be added to their list of friends