Two weeks ago, the Office of Communications in the U.K. published an 80-page report, Social Networking: A quantitative and qualitative research report into attitudes, behaviours and use. The report draws on numerous qualitative and quantitative research studies conducted in UK in 2007. Here are some interesting findings from the report:
- Social networking sites are most popular with teenagers and young adults.
- 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.
- The average adult social networker has profiles on 1.6 sites, and most users check their profile at least every other day.
- 25% of registered social networking users had posted sensitive personal data about themselves on their profiles (phone numbers, home addresses, etc.).
- The majority of adults who had used a social networking site had a profile on Facebook (62%) and this was the most mentioned main social networking site (49%). Nearly half of all respondents reported having a profile on MySpace and one-third had one on Bebo.
- Two-thirds of parents claim to set rules about their child’s use of social networking sites, although only 53% of children said that their parents set such rules.
- Social networkers fall into five distinct groups based on their behaviors and attitudes: 1) Alpha Socialisers, 2) Attention Seekers, 3) Followers, 4) Faithfuls, and 5) Functionals.
- Non-users of social networking sites fall into three distinct groups: 1) Concerned about safety, 2) Technically inexperienced, and 3) Intellectual rejecters.
- Social network users create well-developed profiles as the basis of their online presence. They share personal information with a wide range of “friends.”
- Only a few users highlighted negative aspects of social networking.
- Concerns about privacy and safety are not “top of mind” for most users.
- 41% of children aged 8-17 and 44% of adults leave their privacy settings as default ‘open’ which means that their profiles are visible to anyone.
- 34% of 16-24 year olds are willing to give out sensitive personal information such as their phone number or email address.
- 17% of adults used their profile to communicate with people they do not know. This increases among younger adults. 35% of adults spoke to people who were ‘friends of friends’.
- Facebook is the most popular site with adults followed by MySpace and then Bebo. For children aged between 8 and 17, Bebo was the most used social networking site.
- A minority of younger women reported creating fake profiles for fun.
- Some teenagers and adults in their early twenties reported feeling ‘addicted’ to social networking sites and were aware that their use was squeezing their study time.
- A minority of people reported being aware of bullying through social networking sites and some younger users admitted using social networking sites to ‘get back’ at people they had fallen out with.
Robin Blake introduces Ofcom’s research on Social Networking