The Social Network: What Does it Really Mean & How Does it Impact Our Teens

According to Wikipedia: social network is a social structure made up of individuals (or organizations) which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency.

According to Boyd & Ellison (2007) Social networking sites are web-based sites that individuals use to build profiles “within a bounded system”. These sites allow users to connect with other users as well as view the sites of others across the network.

In Teenage, the Social Network (or Social Net) is a way to find out what your friends are up to, share information and insights with a large group all at once, make new connections with those with common interests, and essentially keep in the loop about what is going on in your own ‘world” aka social networking.

Teens, today, have the opportunity to broaden their horizons in ways many of us never even dreamed about. The Social Network allows teens to keep up with their world in real time. Information can be delivered to large connections of people through one posting instead of individually from person to person.

 The benefits of the Social Net are many. Provided the information being shared is accurate,the Social Net cuts down on the “telephone or grapevine effect” i.e. the morphing of information or message as it is delivered from person to person. This allows a large number of connected people to get it right the first time.

 We are all aware of the potential downsides and even the dangers of this ability as well. Messages of hate and mistruths can also be delivered to large numbers of people with a few strokes of the keys. In response, cyberbullying campaigns have become widespread and focus on educating teens on the negative effects of the Social Net with an emphasis on teaching empathy and understanding.

 Regardless of the perks and problems,it seems clear that the Social Networking movement is not only here to stay but is in its early stages of development. New sites with different approaches and different angles are cropping up everyday providing opportunities for people to connect in ways that only a few years ago would have sounded impossible.

The result is that the very nature of teen culture has become synonymous with Social Networking. As with anything it is not what it is, but how it is used that becomes important.