Pew Research Report Finds No Cause for Alarm in Teen Social Networking Use
> 1/8/2007 12:25:11 PM

Internet safety seems to have dropped out of the limelight over the last several months. While not too long ago news reports made it sound as if MySpace and Facebook were the single greatest threat to our children's safety since terrorism, little has been written about the issue as of late. As the AP reports, a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project is the one of first independent sources of information regarding social networking site usage by teens in America.

Overall, the stats weren't all that surprising, with 55% of teens reporting that they had created a profile on one of the social networking sites. Girls were slightly more likely to have used these sites, with 58% saying they did versus only 51% for boys. Older teens (15 to 17 years-old) were almost 20% more likely to have a profile than younger teens (12 to 14 years-old).

The report itself offers a great deal in the way of encouraging news. Teens who use social networking sites seem to be very aware of the security concerns involved as well as the measures available to them to prevent unintended usage. Only 1% of those teens surveyed were unsure whether their current profile was listed publicly or privately, which indicates that teens are making decisions about who can and cannot see their profiles. From the AP:

"One of the things to take away from this report should be a sense of 'the kids are alright,' says Steve Jones, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies new media. "It's clear that teens are not just willy-nilly using social networking sites and making themselves vulnerable to predators.

The message in the media seemed to be one of "Oh no, predators will hunt down our children!" But the work put in here by the Pew study group indicates that teens are pretty savvy about their net usage, and perhaps savvier than the media or their parents have given them credit for. That being said, this one study does not signal the all-clear for internet usage by teens. It's still important for parents and other responsible adults to communicate the potential hazards and risks of interacting in the online world. The strengths and benefits of the web--it's ease of use, accessibility and endless memory--are also the things that make it a powerful tool for those who would do harm. This report provides some good news in the debate over internet safety. Now if only it would generate some headlines.


I do keep an eye on my kids' myspace pages and their friends. The most concerning thing I see is the girls' pages where they like to come off as slutty as possible, although they don't seem that way in real life. None of them really have identifying data where you could track them down if you didn't know them, however.What I think is creepy is some of the people that my kids have played XBox Live with. They are talking to them online with a microphone and I can hear what they are saying. Some of them are just bizarre characters although most of them are just regular gamers.
Posted by: liz 1/8/2007 2:49:14 AM

Liz, you're absolutely right about XBox Live. I'm not a user myself, but know friends and family who play on Microsoft's online service. They've communicated similar things to me regarding the use of obsenities and racially charged language.In a lot of ways, Xbox Live's service represents one of the few "public" interaction spaces that has yet to receive broad media attention, and this means it is, for better or worse, virtually unmonitored and unregulated. If I understand correctly, it is possible to report particularly abusive or unruly users to Microsoft who can then suspend their accounts, but by and large, much of the raucus behavior is tacitly let go. It's also my guess that any regulation that would be proposed by Microsoft's game's division would be met with fierce opposition by users who are very loyal. Your comment shows that you are engaged with and aware of your child's use of this service, which is probably more than can be said of most parents. Open discussion about what your children encounter on XBox Live, as with anywhere else, can only be a positive thing. And if you do hear or see something that broaches a line you would rather not see crossed, I would suggest you contact Microsoft and make sure your voice is heard.
Posted by: TheEditorInChief 1/9/2007 10:23:59 AM

The good thing about XBox Live is that you can block the problem people and not have to deal with them any more. There definitely is way more profanity than I would like to hear, but my boys (15 and 17) are old enough that I'm not going to keep them from playing. Most of the games they play are with actual real life friends, and there's plenty of profanity that goes on in that group too. I have to say that my kids get a kick out of goading some of these people into getting angry and then blocking them. The funny thing is that they are mild-mannered and well-behaved children who would never behave like if they weren't anonymously online so plenty of blame rests with them.
Posted by: liz 1/9/2007 1:37:44 AM

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