Social Networking Sites: Implications for Youth

Social Networking Sites: Implications for Youth

Minas Michikyan (California State University-Los Angeles, USA) and Kaveri Subrahmanyam (California State University-Los Angeles, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0315-8.ch011
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In the past few years, social networking sites (SNSs) such as Facebook and MySpace have become increasingly popular among Internet users. They allow individuals to present themselves, share information, establish or maintain connections, and interact and communicate with other users. As SNSs have become tremendously popular among adolescents and emerging adults, research suggests that online social media use may be connected to young people’s development. This encyclopedia entry summarizes up-to-date research on SNSs, and will focus on the relation between adolescents’ and emerging adults’ use of these sites to address traditional developmental concerns and their psychosocial well-being. Researchers have begun to explore the extent to which individuals engage in self-presentation and exploration as well as relationship formation on SNSs, and are examining the relationship between such use and psychosocial outcomes among youth. As digital youth are growing up in an ever connected world, it is important to understand online social media use and the implications of such use on their psychosocial development and psychological well-being.
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Today almost anyone can “broadcast” himself or herself online with a variety of social media such as social networking sites (SNSs), YouTube and other online applications. These Internet applications offer user-friendly features, which allow users to easily connect with others, as well as to access and share information and audio and video files easily. In 2010, millions of people around the world visited SNSs around the world. The tremendous growth in popularity of these networking sites, especially among youth, has elicited a growing body of work that has sought to examine their social and developmental impact (boyd & Ellison, 2007b; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Livingstone, 2008; Manago, Graham, Greenfield, & Salimkhan, 2008; Siibak, 2009; Strano, 2008; Subrahmanyam, Reich, Waechter, & Espinoza, 2008; Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten, 2006).

Social networking sites (SNSs) are online platforms or sites that enable users to interact and connect with others in their network of “friends”. On becoming a member in a SNS, an individual begins by creating a profile, where he or she can post personal and identifiable information, images or other content depending on the features available at the particular sites and then make connections to existing friends who already have profiles or with unknown people who have profiles on the site. The sites serve various functions for users. While serves as a business-oriented social networking website,,, Orkut and others emphasize communication with friends, peers and family members, and provide forums to share photos, music, videos, comments, and more. Still, others target particular interest groups and the 2011 version of Myspace with its music orientation is an example of this kind of SNS.

Social networking sites have become very popular, particularly among youth, and according to the 2010 PEW report, 73% of teen users and 72% of young adults (PEW, 2010), report that they are members of these virtual communities. In 2010, the two most popular SNSs were Facebook, with over 500 million unique users, and Myspace, with 57 million users (Owyang, 2010). Anecdotal reports suggest that young people view SNSs as providing opportunities for self-expression and exploration, sociability, and to derive a sense of community. Scholars have also begun to examine the extent to which individuals use SNSs to explore and present aspects of their self, create and recreate their identities, as well as interconnect with others and create and form relationships; additionally, research has begun to examine the relation between young people’s SNSs use and their social and psychological well-being (Livingstone, 2008; Manago et al., 2008; Siibak, 2009; Strano, 2008; Subrahmanyam et al., 2008). Because young people’s SNSs use has received the most attention, we will frame our discussion about the role of SNSs in the context of adolescence and emerging adulthood.

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