Social networking

There are many potential problems with social networking sites, one of the most popular Internet activities among teenagers. Social networking involves using Web sites to create profile and share information with others and connect with them. These sites allow users to add friends, send messages and comment on others' profile pages. The recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that fully 95% of all teenagers from 12 to 17 use the Internet, and 80% of those teens are users of social media sites (2). According to Pew, “Many log on daily to their social network pages and these have become spaces where much of the social activity of teen life is echoed and amplified—in both good and bad ways”(2). In fact, the social networking has a double-edged sword characteristic for those online teens because it provides many opportunities for learning and communication while it also causes potentially dangers for teenagers.

The History of Social Networking

In 1978, Social networking began with the Bulletin Board System (or BBS.) The BBS was hosted on personal computers, requiring users dial in through the modem and exchanging information over phone lines with other users. Later, the first copies of web browsers were distributed through Usenet.
In 1994, Geocities, one of the first social networking sites on the internet, launching its website. It allows users to create their own websites and divided them into categories “cities” based on the content of websites.
In 1995, was launched, offering users the ability to interact with others with the same interests and publish their own content.
Two years later, in 1997, AOL Instant Messenger and were launched. Instant messaging became popular because users were able to create a profile and listing friends.
In 2002, Friendster was the pioneer of social networking, the online connection of real-world friend. In the first three months, its user-base acquired 3 million users, about 1 in every 126 internet users being members at the time.
In 2003, MySpace who cloned Friendster launched after just 10 days of coding.
In the following years, many other social networking websites like, LinkedIn and started to pop up.
In 2004, Facebook was launched originally to connect U.S. college students, starting with Harvard College. Within the first month, more than half of the 19,500 students signed up.
After gaining popularity, Facebook opened its registration to non-college students, and in 2008, Facebook overtook MySpace as the leading social networking website.

Popular Social Networking Sites

With the development of internet especially social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook and video sites such as YouTube, the amount of time eight- to eighteen-year-olds spend with media in a typical day has increased from an average of 1:02 per day in 2004 to 1:29 in 2009) according to the study of Kaiser Family Foundation. Visiting social networking sites is the most popular computer activity among teenagers.

How Teens Use Social Networking Sites

Social websites harm children's brains.
Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jill Tucker observes, “While teens are spending more and more time on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace - with 22 percent saying they check their sites more than 10 times a day - they don't seem to be aware of the long-term personal havoc they could create with a click of a button” (15). Indeed, most teen members spend most of time to create their individualized profile include personal information such as real name, gender, age, address, phone number, as well as their photos and videos. Teens engage in a wide range of activities on social network sites with chatting and instant messaging, commenting on friends’ posts, posting their own status and updating their personal page or making new friends.

Positives and Negatives

A cruel online world - Pew Research Center

Social networking sites not only provides significant benefits for users such as research access, entertainment, and a communication tool with families and friends, but it also have negative effects along with these benefits. Most social networking sites are easy to access for all people that could be exposed teenagers to harassment, bullying or sexual advances. According to Pew Research Center, among social media users, 88% of social media-using teens have witnessed other people be mean or cruel on social network sites (3). And 19% of all teens report that they have been bullied in the past year in multiple ways in person, online, by text, or by phone (5). This harassment make teen more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders.
The most danger of social networking is that teens may become victims of pedophiles. According to Jill Tucker, more than 1 out of every 10 teenagers has posted a nude or seminude picture of themselves or others online - a "digital tattoo" that could haunt them for the rest of their lives (1). The anonymity of social networking makes it easy for pedophiles to approach teenagers through online chatting. Another risky connection when giving out personal information on the Internet would make social network site users more likely to become victims for privacy-related cyber-crimes.
Although many sites restrict access to children, millions of underage users break this restriction and then create account on many social network sites. Writing in the journal The New York Time, Somini Sengupta argued that “Regulators Say Social Network Violated Child Privacy Law”. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, requires companies to obtain parental consent before collecting any personal information about a child under 13 (12). In order to comply with this Act, many communication services and social media sites uses their Terms of Service to forbid children under the age of 13 from creating an account. Despite such restrictions, Pew Research Center show that millions of children lie about their age in order to register for Facebook account. Close to half of online teens (44%) admit to lying about their age at one time or another so they could access a website or sign up for an online account (55). This survey reported that 45% of 12-year-olds who are online are social network users of sites like Facebook and MySpace, all of which have 13 as a minimum age (56). Those underage users can be exposed to inappropriate content including violence, sexual topics which can harm children and destroy their development.

Social Networking Safety

According to Pew Research Center report that 86% of online teens say they have received general advice about how to use the internet responsibly and safely from their parents (6). Parents are still the top source for teen internet users because teens rely most heavily on parents for advice about online behavior and coping with challenging experiences (6). Because parents play an important role to keep their child from hidden dangers of Internet, parents should talk to their teens about safe and risky online practices and about appropriate and inappropriate online behavior. Parents can assess their child’s activities on social networking sites, and discuss removing inappropriate content or connections to unknown people. They can suggest to their child to take advantage of social networking to enhance learning, to collaborate with friends and avoid such inappropriate content and activities on the Internet like cyber-bullying, stalking, or sharing sexual materials. Parents also need to pay attention to the online trends and the latest technologies, websites and applications children are using. Finally, if possible, parents should encourage teens spend more time in real-life friendships and outside activities so they can learn many social skills in actual communication than “social networking communication”.

Works Cited

Lenhart, Amanda, Mary Madden, Aaron Smith, Kristen Purcell, Kathryn Zickuhr, and Lee Rainie. “Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites.” The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. 9 Nov. 2011. Web. 12 Dec 2011.
Rideout, Victoria J., Ulla G. Foehr and Donald F. Roberts. “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.” A Kaiser Family Foundation Study, Jan 2010. Web. 12 Dec 2011.
Sengupta, Somini. “Regulators Say Social Network Violated Child Privacy Law”. Bits. New York Times, 8 Nov. 2011. Web. 12 Dec 2011.
Tucker, Jill. “Social networking has hidden dangers for teens”. SF Gate. San Francisco Chronicle, 10 August, 2009. Web. 12 Dec 2011.