The social networking boom among teens created inevitable shrugged shoulders, looks of concern and then over-reaction from the adult set. This created a vacuum to Figure It All Out with stories about generational divides, conferences, papers and polls -- oh so many polls.
This is a good thing. The more we move away from perceptions based on anecdotes and move closer to understanding based on hard-ish data, the more likely knee-jerk, counter-productive legislation like DOPA and its offspring will fail.
The latest polling on how those wacky kids use The MySpace and The Facebook comes from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. In particular, Pew looks at the identity and privacy issues that have largely driven the public policy debate on the social phenomenon. They polled 935 12-17-year-olds. You can download the PDF of the report and results here.
Excerpts and top-line stats galore after the jump...
Most teenagers are taking steps to protect themselves online from the most obvious areas of risk. The new survey shows that many youth actively manage their personal information as they perform a balancing act between keeping some important pieces of information confined to their network of trusted friends and, at the same time, participating in a new, exciting process of creating content for their profiles and making new friends. Most teens believe some information seems acceptable – even desirable – to share, while other information needs to be protected.
Still, the survey also suggests that today’s teens face potential risks associated with online life. Some 32% of online teenagers (and 43% of social-networking teens) have been contacted online by complete strangers and 17% of online teens (31% of social networking teens) have “friends” on their social network profile who they have never personally met.
Here is a general statistical snapshot of how teens use social network sites and the way they handle their privacy on them:
55% of online teens have profiles online; 45% of online teens do not have profiles online.
Among the teens who have profiles, 66% of them say that their profile is not visible to all internet users. They limit access to their profiles in some way.
Among those whose profiles can be accessed by anyone online, 46% say they give at least a little and sometimes a good deal of false information on their profiles. Teens post fake information to protect themselves, but also to be playful or silly.
Most teens are using the networks to stay in touch with people they already know, either friends that they see a lot (91% of social networking teens have done this) or friends that they rarely see in person (82%).
49% of social network users say they use the networks to make new friends.
On the important "don't-talk-to-strangers" rule...
One in three (32%) online teens have been contacted online by a stranger. Among those contacted by strangers, two-thirds (65%) said they ignored the contact or deleted it the last time it happened to them. Some 21% have followed up on the encounter by asking for more information from the person contacting them.
23% of teens who have been contacted by a stranger online say they felt scared or uncomfortable because of the online encounter (that translates to 7% of all online teens).
Here's what the surveyed teens with online profiles post on their pages...
82% of profile creators have included their first name in their profiles
79% have included photos of themselves.
66% have included photos of their friends.
61% have included the name of their city or town.
49% have included the name of their school.
40% have included their instant message screen name.
40% have streamed audio to their profile.
39% have linked to their blog.
29% have included their email address.
29% have included their last names.
29% have included videos.
2% have included their cell phone numbers.
6% of online teens and 11% of profile-owning teens post their first and last names on publicly-accessible profiles;
3% of online teens and 5% of profile-owning teens disclose their full names
Here's what parents are doing about all of this...
53% of parents say they have filtering software on the computer their child uses at home.
Teens are generally aware that there are filters on their home computers. Half (50%) of teens who go online from home say that the computer they use at home has a filter that keeps them from going to certain websites.
45% of parents have monitoring software that records what users do online.
Teens are also relatively aware of monitoring software on their home computers, though less aware than they are of filtering. About a third of teens (35%) with internet access at home believe that there is monitoring software on their home computer.
65% of parents report checking up on their teens after they go online.
Teens are now more aware that their parents are “checking up” on them after they go online; 41% of teens who go online from home believe that their parents monitor them after they have gone online, up from 33% in 2004 and 27% in 2000.
Home computers are still overwhelmingly located in open family areas of the home; 74% of teens now say the computer they use is in a public place in the home, compared with 73% in 2004 and 70% in 2000.
Finally, in what might be the most interesting and telling group of results, Pew calls the Internet the "most regulated form of media in the home" and shows...