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Relationships and social rules: Teens’ social network and other ICT selection practices



The issue of how teens choose social networks and information communication technologies (ICT's) for personal communication is complex. This study focused on describing how U.S. teens from a highly technological suburban high school select ICT's for personal communication purposes. Two research questions guided the study: (a) What factors influence high school seniors’ selection of online social networks and other ICT's for everyday communication? (b) How can social network theory (SNT) help to explain how teens select online social networks and other ICT's for everyday communication purposes? Using focus groups, a purposive sample of 45 teens were asked to discuss (a) their preferred methods for communicating with friends and family and why, (b) the reasons why they chose to engage (or not to engage) in online social networking, (c) how they selected ICT's for social networking and other communication purposes, and (d) how they decided whom to accept as online “friends.” Findings indicated that many factors influenced participants’ ICT selection practices including six major categories of selection factors: relationship factors, information/communication factors, social factors, systems factors, self-protection factors, and recipient factors. SNT was also helpful in explaining how “friendship” was a major determining factor in their communication media and platform choices.