Kids and Social Media: Generation Social?

Kids and Social Media: Generation Social?

Facebook created quite a stir a couple of weeks ago when Mark Zuckerberg alluded to the possibility of making the popular social media site available to kids younger than 13 years old, the (theoretical) existing minimum age to open an account. In fact, it’s estimated that over 7.5 million children under 13 years old lied about their age in order to be able to sign up and create a Facebook account. Surprising? Not really, specially when reading the latest report from Ipsos on Kids and Social Media.

KIDS AGED 6-12 ACTIVE ON MANY SOCIAL MEDIA

The study took a look at how kids and parents adopt and adapt to new media and technologies, and it’s not surprising to see how fast kids are catching on to internet-enabled devices – not surprising, that is, if you are like me and have kids in that age range! If you don’t, brace yourself: the results are pretty startling!

Access to internet-enabled devices by kids, age 6-12

In the households surveyed, 42% of kids age 6-12 are said to have used those devices to visit a social network site, and 71% of those kids—or 29% of all kids age 6-12 surveyed — have an account on a social network site. There was little difference per gender, but as can be expected, older kids showed a higher membership rate.

Social Network Membership by Age Group

Facebook clearly comes out on top of social media favorites, with Twitter a distant second, followed by Google+, MySpace and Foursquare. Another interesting finding was the fact that 1 out every 5 kid owning a mobile device (phone or tablet) has a social media application on these devices.

In fact, another recent report, this one from Pew Internet, showed that teenagers are actually slowly moving away from Facebook onto Twitter where they can actually network without the direct scrutiny of Mom, Dad or some distant uncle. It’s even said that without social media, 18% of teenagers would stop communicating with each other altogether! (Click here for more on this) But kids and teenagers don’t share same behaviors, so let’s get back to our Ipsos study.

MOST POPULAR ACTIVITIES

So what do kids go on social networks? Well, while it’s obviously not the same as what adults will do, it’s not that different either. Here are the most popular activities, according to the survey:

  • 58% just “look” at what others are writing.
  • 57% play games or engage in some sort of gaming activity
  • 54% will simply “like” things, or display an opinion with a simple click
  • 43% actually post updates
  • 39% will post pictures – makes you wonder which ones…
  • 24% are there to search videos, articles or a favorite song
  • 20% answer questions, surveys, quizzes
Just like adults, though, there seems to be such as thing as ‘social media addiction’: 73% of kids with a social network presence visit their account daily, while close to 40% do this more than twice per day. Sounds familiar?

WHAT ROLE FOR PARENTS?

As one would expect, parents must play a key role in making sure kids learn how to properly navigate the realm of social media activities. Eight out of ten parents whose kid has a social media account actually follow their kids’ activities by becoming their “friend” on Facebook or “following” them on Twitter. Parents not only monitor social media engagement but also control privacy settings.

I guess this is the most delicate aspect of this survey, and the one that raises the bigger questions. More than half of parents surveyed agree that the social networking sites’ level of access to user information makes them potentially dangerous, yet here they are allowing access. The important thing, I believe, is that parents do this with the clear intent of keeping a close eye, to monitor while coaching kids on potential issues and risks. There are few people left out there doubting the powerful impact of social networks on today’s communications. We simply have to embrace this paradigm shift while it’s happening, and lead by example rather than duck our heads under the sand.

Other related reading: Meet Generation C: The Connected Customer, by Brian Solis.


Frederic Gonzalo
Written by Frederic Gonzalo

Senior marketing and communications expert & speaker with 18 years expertise in the travel and hospitality industry. Consulting since early 2012, I provide strategic planning, social media & mobile development counseling to small and medium businesses alike. Reach me at frederic@gonzomarketing.biz

6 comments
Adi Gaskell
Adi Gaskell

Fascinating and scary in equal measure. It really puts a lot of pressure on parents to keep up to date with the latest technologies so they can educate their children on the best way to do all of this safely, and of course on the networks themselves to do a big education job. Interestingly there was a controversial article recently suggesting that if you wanted to work in social media you had to be under 25 because that age group had grown up with social media and was therefore that much more attuned to it. Suffice to say many people (myself included) disagreed, but it does raise some interesting points.

Peter Trapasso
Peter Trapasso

Great post Frederic! That is amazing, kids as young as 6 years old on social networks? I hope their parents are monitoring closely. cheers, Pete

Gazalla Gaya
Gazalla Gaya

I agree. Kids these days are very smart and they will teach you a trick or two on social media. Not only are they smarter than us in social media use but also in gaming, video watching, answering questions, surveys and quizzes, essentially everything that they also do on social media. Social media is just another outlet for them and as you pointed out with parental supervision, it can work. Of-course, the dangers are always lurking but there is danger in many aspects and have always been ever since the advent of the internet - earlier with chat rooms and forums where people concealed their identities and did dangerous things. Coaching and keeping a watchful eye is paramount.

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

"Fascinating and scary" pretty much sums up how I see it as well. The important thing is that we acknowledge this reality, then deal with it. As for the controversial article you refer to, yes, the one by Catherine Sloane in NextGen journal... boy, this one got a lot of coverage these days. It does raise interesting points, but I mostly get the impression it's a slow news week, which explains why this topic got so much attention. Some people overreacted, IMHO. Thanks for the feedback, Adi. Cheers, Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Indeed, it's pretty scary in a way, yet I guess it's the new "normal". My 3 year-old can play around with basic stuff on the iPad but my 5 year-old can pretty much handle it full-on. As for social networks, I find it too early, but my 8 year-old chats and plays with other people on Club Penguin, so as long as we monitor and coach, I guess it's OK. Cheers, Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Thanks for the comment, Gazalla. Coaching and keeping a watchful eye is indeed pretty much what should be done, for it won't be long until these kids teach us a trick or two, if they don't do it already ;-) Cheers, Frederic