New Research on Social Networking and What It’s Doing to Us

For years, I’ve been in dialogue with teachers, coaches and parents who wondered if social networking sites are good or bad for students.

Questions have been raised about the social impact of widespread use of social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter. Do these technologies isolate people and truncate their relationships? Or are there benefits associated with being connected to others in this way? The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project decided to examine SNS in a survey that explored people’s overall social networks and how use of these technologies is related to trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement.

Tomorrow, I will summarize the findings Pew Research made, but for now, let me provide a summary of my response to their findings:

1. Social networking is not going away any time soon. Parents and educators must find ways to harness and capitalize on this technology as a tool for growth.

2. Social networking can actually foster relationships and certainly enable an introverted person to be more “social.”

3. Social networking sites can also make us lazy—so we must balance “face” time with “screen” time to ensure we maintain our people skills, emotional intelligence and communication skills.

4. Social networking sites are taking the place of the Roledex for the Baby Boomers and the cell phone for the Gen Xers. In other words, don’t assume Facebook is just plain bad for kids. It’s a new, more efficient way to connect.

So here’s my question for you: how are you using social networking sites to develop the students around you?  Are you capitalizing on them to educate kids? Do you remember what happened with television back in the 1960s? Everyone said how evil TV was…then along came Sesame Street, Captain Kangaroo, Barney and Blues Clues. TV is neutral. We simply had to learn a way to harness TV as a tool.

This Thursday and Friday, our organization, Growing Leaders will host a National Leadership Forum called, “Develop: Cultivating Growth, Engagement and Success in Students.” One of the issues we’ll discuss is now to harness new technology to help students grow. Join us in Atlanta if you can:

What’s your feedback?  Do you (or someone you know) do this well? Please share it.


New Research on Social Networking and What It’s Doing to Us