More teens move their social lives online

More teens move their social lives online

Girls lead the charge

By Scott Duke Harris / Mercury News
Article Launched: 12/19/2007 01:59:59 PM PST

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already be considered a year out of date – a very long time considering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.

But e-mail is out, not in. The Pew report’s author, Mary Madden, said:
"New technology increases the overall intensity and frequency of their
communication with friends, with e-mail being the one glaringly uncool
exception in their eyes." These patterns were reflected among a
cross-section of teens at the Oaktown Westfield Shoppingtown food
court. Their ranks included customers Emily and Monique, whose
14-year-old smiles were in the process of enriching orthodontists. It
also included the crew behind the counter at Hot Dog On A Stick, clad
in uniforms of blue, yellow, red and white and bearing name tags that
identified the girls as April, Alyssa and Kelly and the boys as Daniel,
Will and Brian.

Emily fit Pew’s trends well, saying she had a MySpace profile and a
separate blog. "It’s kind of like my diary. I only let my sister and
one of my friends read it." And, yes, she uses MySpace to express her
personality, altering layouts and text. She said she sometimes spends
so many hours online that her parents order her to stop.

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