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Teen Health 411

Teens and the Web World

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Yuki Noguchi's article in the Washington Post on October 29, 2006 entitled "In Teens' Web World, My Space Is So Last Year," was really interesting. However, I was less interested in what sites kids think are "in" as social spaces on the Internet, than I was about the facts about these sites. Did you know that Google struck a $900 million deal with NewsCorp primarily to advertise on MySpace? That may be because MySpace has amassed 124 million profiles during the last 2.5 years and with teens spending 1 - 4 hours a month decorating and posting notes and pictures on their profiles, or their friend's profiles, they are being exposed to a lot of advertising.

Here are some average times spent on social networking sites in the past few years:
  • In October 2002 the typical Xanga user spent an average of 1 hour 39 minutes a month on the site.
  • In October 2003, Friendster users spent an average of 1 hour and 51 minutes on the site which increased to 3 hours and 3 minutes in February 2006.
  • In October 2005 MySpace users averaged 2 hours 25 minutes.
  • In September 2006 Facebook users spent an average of 1 hour and 9 minutes on the site.
These teens are fickle though - these are free sites and teens reportedly change sites frequently, in mass, with their friends, looking for better services, new ways to communicate and share content they find or create, escaping a creepy predator, or to avoid the peeping of their parents or teachers.

What are teens doing on these sites? They are posting on blogs (like their parent's diary), looking for their friend's profiles, looking at photos, leaving comments, and finding friendship and romance. There is a whole new type of peer drama associated with these social spaces. Friends are hurt by what is said, being excluded, or just not being "cool" enough to rank as top friends.

Apart from the drama and social chaos caused by the communication on these sites, teens are also victimized by predators pretending to be peers and raking in personal information posted by teens for their friends. Add these social threats to the inactivity associated with hours spent online, and the prognosis is not good. I hate to sound like an old fogey, but we need to make sure our preteens are well-versed in web safety, get our teens off these sites unless they can block strangers, and get them interacting with people in the community and making friends the old-fashoned way. Their health and safety may be at risk!

Photo credit: lorri37

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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