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Social Networking: The New E-mail

In March 2009, Nielsen Online released a report, Global Faces and Networked Places, with some interesting yet unsurprising data—social networking sites are used much more than e-mail for our primary means of communication. On the Nielsen Wire blog, the company wrote: “Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites, accounting for almost 10% of all Internet time.”

Other interesting points from the report include

  • Social networking sites were visited once every 15 minutes online in 2008 and are now visited once every 11 minutes. In some areas like Brazil and the United Kingdom, they are visited much more frequently—every 4 and 6 minutes, respectively.
  • Social networking sites and blogs are growing 3 times more than any other area on the Internet.
  • Social networking sites are now multigenerational; 35- to 49-year-olds use Facebook to the same extent as 18- to 34-year-olds.
  • Facebook use has increased 566% from December 2007 to December 2008 and replaced MySpace as the most popular social networking site.

Add to these data the fact that kids are using computers much more now than in the past. The March 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation report, Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8–18 Year-Olds, revealed a 44% in-crease in computer use from 1999 to 2004 (27 minutes per day in 1999 to 1 hour 2 minutes in 2004). The January 2010 update of this report, Generation M, showed an increase in computer time by 27 more minutes a day. In the original Generation M report, Kaiser revealed that our kids are spending 28% of their time each day using the computer. Not surprisingly, it confirms that most of the activities that kids do online beyond basic searches are social or involve communication—IMing, recreation, downloading music, or making a Web page. The big finding in Generation M is how mobile our kids have become. M revealed a dramatic increase in cell phone use, MP3 player use, and laptop use well beyond the other media venues discussed in the report.

What does this all mean? As Kaiser wrote in its original Generation M report: “Anything that takes up this much space in young people’s lives deserves our full attention.”

Since the first Generation M report came out, our kids are online even more, as Generation M helps confirm, and are more on the go with their digital lives with cell phones and smartphone devices, including the iTouch. In 2009, kids and teens became even more digital, spending 63% more time online than when the original Kaiser Generation M report came out in 2005, according to Nielsen. That May 2009 report gave us another staggering statistic—the growth of kids online outpaced the entire Internet population, with 18% growth for the 2- to 11-year-old sector compared with only 10% growth for the entire Internet population.

Viewed from this perspective, adults who are not online sorting out the social world of kids might as well let kids go out to recess without teacher chaperones!

Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, MD, FAAP
Last Updated
CyberSafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming, and Social Media (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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