Facebook waning, social media may have plateaued among teens, Pew study says
A huge update on our knowledge of teens and social media was released by Pew Research Center today. It's findings include some surprising info: Facebook use among teens is waning, teens do, in fact, value their privacy online, and a majority have friended their parents.
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So let’s zoom in on the reasons teens interviewed in focus groups gave Pew for why they’re using Facebook less and consider some takeaways:Skip to next paragraph
Anne Collier is editor of NetFamilyNews.org and co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. She lives in Northern California and has two sons.
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- “The increase in adult presence”: The takeaway we might consider is that trying to monitor teens’ activities by setting up an account in every online service and app they use in a kind of whack-a-mole approach to tech parenting won’t ultimately keep parents abreast of their kids’ digital activities for the simple reason that the more we monitor, the more likely they are to move on. It’ll get harder and harder, too, because they aren’t moving on to a single new service (the way in the last decade Facebook replace MySpace as the No. 1 social network site). Today, digital socializing is expanding and diversifying because it’s now on the mobile platform at least as much as the Web. It looks like digital monitoring and “parental controls” are being replaced by good old-fashioned communication between parent and child about how they use digital devices and spaces (we ConnectSafely folk offer discussion points in two of those spaces with our new parents’ guides to Snapchat and Instagram).
- “People sharing excessively”: Note how smart Pew’s respondents are to find that annoying! What this indicates is that protective social norms are developing – teens are viewing it less and less socially acceptable to overshare. Adults might find it comforting to see this; it’s online safety in action at the grassroots level. And I hope parents will increasingly understand and acknowledge the protective power of social norms among young people every bit as much as among adults.
- “Stressful ‘drama’”: This is one reason why, in other reports, young people are saying they’re moving to Snapchat and other perishable media services: drama avoidance (see this). If the photos and videos vanish in 10 seconds or less, there’s no chance posturing (or “posing”), no self-presentation, “claiming,” or grandstanding. Drama can’t build. Sharing becomes just fun, spontaneous and, well, gone in a few seconds. What a relief, huh? Drama can’t build (or at least drama queens and kings have to work a lot harder), people can let down their guard a little (a little), and reputation management becomes a little less of an issue.
“One of the most striking themes that surfaced through the Berkman focus groups this spring,” the authors write (referring to their co-authors at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society), “was the sense of a social burden teens associated with Facebook. While Facebook is still deeply integrated in teens’ everyday lives, it is sometimes seen as a utility and an obligation rather than an exciting new platform that teens can claim as their own.” Thus their growing interest in the mobile platform. Facebook and its Instagram app are mobile, too, but so are hundreds of thousands of other apps offering at least thousands of different uses. Teens’ digital social activities, from the friendship-driven to the interest-driven kinds*, are diversifying and segmenting. That makes for fascinating conversations with our children and their peers. Seriously, there is so much to learn about them now in kinder, more respectful, less intrusive ways than through impersonal monitoring software and “parental controls.”
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The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs at NetFamilyNews.