By guest blogger Mike Bock
A new 69-page report released by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center concludes that more research is needed to understand children and teenagers' social-media habits. The Cooney Center is a nonprofit think tank founded by Sesame Workshop in 2007 that focuses on learning through digital media.
Authors Sarah Grimes, a professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, and Deborah Fields, an instructional sciences and learning professor at Utah State University, wrote the report because of concerns about the lack of substantive research about kids' social-media habits and the rising popularity of social-networking sites marketed toward youths.
The report identifies key gaps in the current knowledge base in this area, such as a lack of focus on child-specific social-networking sites such as Everloop, and the effects the digital divide has on lower-income communities. Grimes and Fields also propose using new nomenclature for future studies, including SNF, or social-networking forums, as a replacement for social media (since social media doesn't include the myriad of sites that are not designed specifically for social networking but have social networking elements.)
In addition, Grimes and Fields argue that more research is needed about children under the age of nine because social-media interaction can play a part in shaping the development of children in that age group:
"Much that happens in online social networks--the development of relationships (both strong and weak), the exploration of identity, the finding of others with common interests--also happens in kids' everyday lives. It follows then that in order to understand what kids experience in SNF and how to make the most of those experiences, we need to draw on theories of what we already know about the psychology, sociology, economy, culture, and learning of childhood (in all its stages or ages) more generally in order to develop a better understanding how these areas influence children's social networking in new online sites."
We've written a few articles about the effects social media has on children and teenagers. Social media supporters say that sites such as Facebook can help students develop communication skills, while opponents argue the opposite.