High school seniors' social network and other ICT use preferences and concerns



The study develops an in-depth picture of teens' thoughts and opinions related to social networks and ICT's, particularly preferences towards, and concerns related to, their use. Using a series of six semi-structured focus group interviews, data were gathered from 45 high school seniors attending a highly technological public high school. Focus group questions included 1) preferred methods for communicating with friends and family; 2) reasons for engaging or not engaging in online social networking; 3) how ICT's for social networking and other communication purposes were selected; and 4) decisions related to accepting online “friends.”

Findings contradicted earlier “digital natives” literature, which suggests that teens are avid users of technology for technology's sake. Instead, the teens viewed ICTs and social networks from a more pragmatic view, using them as tools for quick and easy communication and for relationship building and maintenance.

General findings indicated that 1) communication media were selected based on the closeness of the relationship with the message receiver(s) and the number of intended receivers; 2) social networks, such as Facebook, were used for less frequent contact with wider range of friends and relatives; 3) teens used ICTs differently for communication with adults than with peers; and 4) teens preferred to use email for interactions with teachers.

An eight-category typology of four ICT capability preferences (Simplicity of interface design/Ease of use, Speed of use, Constant contact/Ubiquitous communication, and Multitasking) and four ICT use concerns (Information privacy, Information security, Communication overload; and Reduced face-to-face communication and interaction) is proposed.