Thursday, December 20, 2007

More teens move their social lives online

The Internet is becoming ever more central to the social life of America's teenagers, especially girls, with greater numbers communicating with friends and creating content on sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, a new survey shows. And when not online, they are gabbing more on cellphones and exchanging text messages.

To which America's teens may say: "Well, duh."

In fairness, no actual teen used that phrase when the Mercury News conducted its own unscientific survey at the food court of Oakridge Westfield Shoppingtown. But they were thinking it. The margin of error was, like, whatever, but a series of brief interviews largely corroborated the findings of a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project of persons between 12 and 17 years of age.

Pew's "Teens an Social Media" study, released Wednesday, showed marked increase in Internet use between 2004 and 2006. The findings may already be considered a year out of date - a very long time considering the rapid acceleration of Web culture.

All considered, Pew's findings should comfort Silicon Valley's bustling Web enterprises that are relying on the medium as a source of revenue, through advertising and sales. "The use of social media - from blogging to online social networking to creation of all kinds of digital material - is central to many teenagers lives," Pew declared. The report may add to the worry of parents who think their teens may be spending too much time socializing via the Web.

Among the more striking trends:

- Nearly two-thirds of teens - 63 percent - have a cell phone. Among teens with cell phones, 55 percent say they use them to talk with friends every day. - More girls than boys said they wrote blogs and kept up with friends via MySpace and Facebook, sites that came into existence only a few years ago. This conformed to one of Pew's findings: "Girls continue to lead the charge as the teen blogosphere grows."

Pew found that 35 percent of all online teen girls blog, compared with 20 percent of online teen boys.

"Virtually all of the growth in teen blogging between 2004 and 2006 is due to the increased activity of girls," the study found. "Older teen girls are still far more likely to blog when compared with older boys, but younger girl bloggers have grown at such a fast clip that they are now outpacing even the older boys." The survey found that 32 percent of girls ages 12 to 14 blog, compared to 18 percent of boys age 15 to 17.

- But YouTube and other video sharing sites tend to be the domain of boys. Online teen boys are "twice as likely" as girls to post video files online, by a 19 percent to 10 percent margin. "Not even older girls - a highly-wired and active segment of the teen population - can compete with boys in this instance; 21 percent of older boys post videos, while just 10 percent of older girls do so," PEW said.

- The growth in blogs tracks, but does not completely overlap, the teens' use of social networking sites. Fully 41 percent of teens who use MySpace, Facebook or similar sites say they send messages to friends via those sites every day. More than half of teens - 55 percent - reported having a profile on sites like MySpace or Facebook, and 42 percent of those teens said they also blog, while 70 percent said they read the blogs of others, and 76 percent reported posting comments to a friend's blog on a social networking site.

- Nearly half of online teens have posted photos where others can see them, and 89 percent of those teens who post photos say that people comment on the images at least "some of the time." Teens who post videos report considerable feedback, with nearly three quarters receiving comments on their videos. - The survey also suggested that there is room for growth, since many teens have yet to fully embrace the Internet. Pew found that while 93 percent of teens say they use the Internet, it also found that 64 percent of those "online teens" have "participated in one or more among a wide range of content-creating activities," up from 57 percent in 2004.

No comments: