Malema vs Visagie... Round 1

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The CyberWorld (Long)

The rapid growth of social networking that has been observed over the last two to three
years is indicative of its entry into mainstream culture and its integration into the daily lives of
many people. In parallel with this, there has also been considerable media coverage of the
growth of social networking, its potential positive outcomes and concerns about the way that
some people are engaging with it.
Social networking sites offer people new and varied ways to communicate via the internet,
whether through their PC or their mobile phone. They allow people to easily and simply
create their own online page or profile and to construct and display an online network of
contacts, often called ‘friends’. Users of these sites can communicate via their profile both
with their ‘friends’ and with people outside their list of contacts. This can be on a one-to-one
basis (much like an email), or in a more public way such as a comment posted for all to see.
For the purpose of this research report we have purposely focused on the social and
communications aspects of social networking sites. We have deliberately not included either
online networks dedicated to business networking, or user-generated content (UGC) sites
(as the latter’s primary focus is on content creation and sharing rather than the development
of online social networks).
Like other communications tools, social networking sites have certain rules, conventions and
practices which users have to navigate to make themselves understood and avoid
difficulties. These range from the etiquette of commenting on other people's profiles to
understanding who one does and doesn’t add as a ‘friend’. Social networking sites also have
some potential pitfalls to negotiate, such as the unintended consequences of publicly posting
sensitive personal information, confusion over privacy settings, and contact with people one
doesn’t know.
Several of the issues around the use of social networking sites are important from a media
literacy standpoint. Section 11 of the Communications Act 2003 requires Ofcom to promote
media literacy. We define media literacy as ‘the ability to access, understand and create
communications in a variety of contexts’. In practice, this means that we are seeking to bring
about and encourage better public understanding and awareness of the digital media in use
today.
One element of Ofcom’s Media Literacy Strategy is to provide a robust evidence base to
help define future priorities for Ofcom. Research helps us identify the issues, direct our
activity and inform progress towards achieving our goals. The purpose of this report is
therefore to provide evidence-based insights into the social networking phenomenon which
can be used to inform current understanding of usage and behaviour in the UK, and to help
identify some of the current and potential future issues around people’s use of social
networking sites.

Stats

Social networking sites offer people new and varied ways to communicate via the internet,
whether through their PC or their mobile phone. Examples include MySpace, Facebook and
Bebo. They allow people to easily and simply create their own online page or profile and to
construct and display an online network of contacts, often called ‘friends’. Users of these
sites can communicate via their profile both with their ‘friends’ and with people outside their
list of contacts.
The rapid growth of social networking sites in recent years indicates that they are now a
mainstream communications technology for many people.
Social networking sites are most popular with teenagers and young adults
Ofcom research shows that just over one fifth (22%) of adult internet users aged 16+ and
almost half (49%) of children aged 8-17 who use the internet have set up their own profile on
a social networking site.4 For adults, the likelihood of setting up a profile is highest among
16-24 year olds (54%) and decreases with age.5
Some under-13s are by-passing the age restrictions on social networking sites
Despite the fact that the minimum age for most major social networking sites is usually 13
(14 on MySpace), 27% of 8-11 year olds who are aware of social networking sites say that
they have a profile on a site. While some of these younger users are on sites intended for
younger children, the presence of underage users on social networking sites intended for
those aged 13 or over was also confirmed by qualitative research conducted by Ofcom.
The average adult social networker has profiles on 1.6 sites, and most users
check their profile at least every other day
Adult social networkers use a variety of sites, with the main ones being Bebo, Facebook and
MySpace. It is common for adults to have a profile on more than one site - on average each
adult with a social networking page or profile has profiles on 1.6 sites, and 39% of adults
have profiles on two or more sites. Half of all current adult social networkers say that they
access their profiles at least every other day.
The site people choose to use varies depending on the user. Children are more likely to use
Bebo (63% of those who have a social networking site profile), and the most popular site for
adults is Facebook (62% of those who have a social networking profile). There is also a
difference between socio-economic groups: ABC1s with a social networking profile were
more likely to use Facebook than C2DEs, who were more likely to have a profile on
MySpace.

Two-thirds of parents claim to set rules on their child’s use of social
networking sites, although only 53% of children said that their parents set
such rules
For many children, the rules and restrictions that their parents set on social networking site
usage are an important influencing factor in the child’s use of social networking sites. Twothirds
of parents whose children have a social networking page say they set rules on their
child’s use of these sites. Most commonly these concerned meeting new people online and
giving out personal details. However, significantly fewer children (53% of those with social
networking profiles) say that their parents set rules on their use of these sites. (for more)

All of this is quite alarming yet the numbers still continue to grow with more and more individuals discovering the world of web. How safe is it though?

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