Good news – despite recent commentary that social networking sites like Facebook can make us feel sad or lonely – a University of Texas report shows that Facebook actually makes people more social both online and offline. The report, published in November, surveyed 900 recent and current college grads about everything from their most common activities on Facebook to what kind of personal information they post to how often they log on daily.
While most people surveyed had concerns and frustrations about Facebook privacy settings in particular, everyone still uses it and the applications and functions on Facebook continue to expand for users. Some notable results are as follows:
- People said they can stay in better touch with far-away friends and families than they ever could imagine doing without social networking.
- The average number of online friends had by those surveyed was 304.64.
- Men were more likely to use Facebook functionally to share news and information, and were more likely to post their own political and religious views.
- Women were more likely to use Facebook affectionately to share photos of friends and family.
- Generally the same percentage of men and women (84%) share their relationship status.
- The older people get, the less likely to users are to post personal information (including religious and political views) for fear of sharing potentially controversial information that could affect them in the workplace.
Furthermore, people’s activities on Facebook (in order of regularity) included posting status updates, posting comments and likes on their or their friends’ profiles, posting photos, using third-party applications including games, and posting links to current events or news. The report’s conclusion was that “social media afford opportunities for new expressions of friendship, intimacy and community,” which makes sense since one of the most common Facebook activities was posting information and comments on friends’ profiles.
So what does this mean for your kids? While it’s important to develop strong social skills in the real world – and now, online as well – there are still online dangers related to oversharing, cyberbullying, and online reputation management that kids need to be informed of. As discovered in the survey, people post less personal information the older they get so kids are the most at risk for posting information that shouldn’t be shared online. Teaching your kids early on about how to be responsible and safe online can ensure that they don’t create a digital footprint for themselves filled with overly-personal information, and can continue to use social networks wisely and safely as they get older.
How does your use of social networking compare with how your kids use sites like Facebook and MySpace?