Kids and teens have always (and will always) explore their identity. It is part of growing up. Technology now allows kids to explore their identity in a whole new way - increasingly through online social networks. They play with their visual identity through photos and avatars, they negotiate friendships in both physical and virtual worlds, and their online social networks are important to their social status. Some of your kids may already be on these social networks and many will be in the near future. Generally, MySpace and Facebook are the two most popular social networks out there, but we'll focus on Facebook for the first part of this lesson followed by more online communities centered around specific area of interest & styles.
Facebook has more than 400 million active users. The average user has 130 friends, sends 8 friend requests per month, and spends more than 55 minutes per day on Facebook. That is a LOT of people and a LOT of time. Facebook can now be accessed though mobile devices and statistics show that people who use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice more active on Facebook than non-mobile users. Who is on their phone all the time? Chances are, your teenager is. Is your teen on facebook? It is clearly a powerful tool, but there are lots of horror stories out there. How can you feel safe about your child engaging in this online network? That's easy - learn about it and engage in it yourself!
Facebook claims that it provides users with tools to control the information they share and with whom they choose to share it. They also say members have the ability to share and restrict information based on specific friends or friend lists. However, under Facebook Policies they disclaimed that all the content posted by any Facebook user is legally own by Facebook. Here is a video that explains some of these settings, limitations and how to help you and your family be safe while social networking! If you don’t have Facebook and would like to register, this is a short video showing you how.
On the surface, this general social network is connecting *millions* of people every day, but it can also be a great tool for students to use. It presents students with choices about using technology in new and creative ways. For a biography research assignment, perhaps your child could create a facebook page for their historical figure. Even as a purely social activitiy, it is an opportunity for students to be learning about digital citizenship, which is becoming increasingly important.
Facebook Resources for Parents:
Facebookforparents.org (sign up for their free newsletter published 3 times each year)
MySpace and Facebook aren't the only social network by any means! There are social networks centered around subjects of interests and appear inmany different ways. What is the important part of idenitfying a social networking site is if it provides you the ability to 'friend' others and share!
Job/Career - LinkedIn is the most popular site for professional networking (sharing your resume, finding other professionals in your field, etc.). Here is some info about LinkedIn, how people use it and why it works.
Twitter is enomously popular with adults, but studies are showing that teens and kids are not being drawn to this wildly successful social site in the same way that adults are. Twitter is easy to use and more and more people and businesses are using it. Did you know Darien Library is on twitter along with other local groups like AllAboutDarien, FairfieldCountyChild, Darien News, Darien Toy Box and even some local moms!
It doesn't have to be Facebook, but click here for step-by-step instructions on setting up a new account. Watch this video on privacy settings or read this article about personalizing your settings.