Yesterday the Pew Internet in American Life Project released an updated report on teens and social media. The findings update their original report released in 2004.

The front page of the report states:

The use of social media gains a greater foothold in teen life as they embrace the conversational nature of interactive online media.

This is probably no surprise for most people, but the content of the report provides hard data that librarians serving teens can use in order to gain backing for the programs and services needed to support teens who are heavy users of social media. The data includes notes about changes in use from the last report. These indicators of growth are a clear demonstration that social media is not a fad for teens (or for the general public for that matter.) Some of the change findings include:

  • More teens are doing more than one type of content creation online. In other words, teens might use Flickr and MySpace or they might post to YouTube and a blog. The report states, “…the number of teen content creators who have done one activity has decreased significantly while the number of content creators who have done two or more activities has increased.”
  • More teens blogging is one of the major reasons that the numbers related to content creation have risen over the past three years. Not only are teens blogging for themselves, they are also blogging as a part of school assignments and extracurricular activities.
  • In 2004, socio-economic conditions did not have an impact on who was and wasn’t blogging. In 2007 teens in lower income families are blogging more than teens in higher income families.
  • In 2004, 33% of teens said they shared artwork, movies, etc. online. In 2007 that percentage reached 39%. In that finding the authors of the report also note that older teens are slightly more likely to share this content online.

The report is filled with extremely useful information, not just for librarians to use in order to educate their colleagues, peers, and administrators about the value and importance of social media in teen lives, but also as a tool for thinking about how services from, and at, the library need to be shaped. How are libraries serving teens supporting adolescent needs and desires to create and exchange online content?

As a final note, it’s important to point out that the authors of the report found that teens who spend lots of time in online social networking do not ignore face-to-face interaction. As a matter of fact the authors state:

…we have yet to see compelling evidence that these highly wired teens are abandoning offline engagement with extracurricular activities in favor of having more screen time. In fact, in many cases, those who are the most active online with social media applications like blogging and social networking also tend to be the most involved with offline activities like sports, music, or part-time employment.

The fear of adults that increased web-based social networking might interfere with a teen’s ability to lead a vibrant face-to-face life seems to be an un-warranted fear.

Don’t miss reading this report for more information and data that helps to get a clear picture of who teens really are in the early 21st century, and to use as fodder for discussions about library service to these teens.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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