The digital literacy leads to a more critical and careful use of technology and social networks, according to the results of a study run by the Forum of Interactive Generations (www.generacionesinteractivas.org). Furthermore, users of social networks, especially those who have multiple profiles, have a greater technological capacity and are significantly more creative than those who do not use social networks.
The study, conducted on a sample of 18,000 learning centers in primary and secondary education, reports the usage profile of social networks (non-user, user or advanced user) in relation to the degree of access to technology, knowledge, family relations, and educational outcomes. An evaluation is also included on the risks and opportunities to which each one is exposed.
The most popular social networks in Spain among children are ranked in the following order: in first place, Tuenti, with 60% of users among web surfers, followed by Facebook, with a 21% penetration rate. Windows Live Space ranks third place at 14%, followed by MySpace and Hi5, which together comprise 12%. The other networks do not surpass 10%. Tuenti has been the most popular social network in Spain for those under 18, especially among boys, but the interest decreases in both sexes as they grow older.
The technologically savvy are the biggest critics and consumers of technology
Minors that do not use social networks are logically more protected against risks that users may encounter. However, habitual users of social networks are more skeptical and aware of the dangers, thanks to their experience as web surfers. On the other hand, they are also more independent: among all targets, they have proven to be greater technology experts and more independent users.
The advanced users use cell phones, television, and video games in a more personal way in respect to non-users. Regarding the use of cell phones, for example, social network users prefer prepaid plans and spend more on a monthly basis. They download files to a greater extent and illegally play video games. They are much more aware of how to pay for the use of their cell phone than non-users, from which 11% claim to not know about the various forms of payment.
According to the results of this research, there is a very positive relationship between the degree of technology use as an educational tool by teachers and the use of social networks among minors.
The dark side of technology
Minors that browse through social networks have a worse academic performance and are less inclined towards reading, especially leisurely reading. This is the other side of the coin, a paradox in many cases. It is a clear example of the negative consequences that come from an excessive use of technology.
Another interesting fact is that an intensified use of technology implies an increase of the conflicts between parents and children, whether it regards the use of devices or when they need to take decisions on content.
But there is also a positive dimension: parents have a greater sensibility towards a correct use of the PC, and a greater degree of consciousness on its potential risks.
Using these means can exponentially increase the social skills of minors, but you can run the risk of provoking the opposite result where they become removed from the reality of their own friends and family. On the other hand, as another study on young Americans had demonstrated in 2009 (www.kff.org/entmedia), an intensive use of the PC does not mean that minors will dedicate less time to other means, such as the television or video games.
Observations on methods and conclusions
The universe of study of this research is comprised of 4,945,951 students during 2006-2007, distributed in 18,065 centers of primary, secondary, and high schools in Spain, excluding Ceuta and Mellilla.
The research of the Forum of Interactive Generations positions itself in the wake of the quantitative-descriptive studies and “does not pretend- states the premise- to offer solutions to problems resulting from the relationship between social networks and minors, rather tries to shed light on the profile of minors who are users of social networks in Spain. Technology must become a factor in personal and social growth by all who use it.”
In conclusion, the authors of the study encourage minors to use social networks “consciously”. However, it is necessary to rely on help and guidance from parents and teachers. In this way, it is possible to reach an adequate balance so that experience becomes transformed into a reasonable and reliable reference point.