Friday, August 22, 2008

Social Networking: A Quantitative And Qualitative Research Report Into Attitudes, Behaviours And Use

Are You An 'Alpha Socialiser'' or an 'Attention Seeker'? ... Ofcom Research Identifies Social Networking Profiles

Nearly half of all children who have access to the internet have their own personal profile on a social networking site, according to extensive qualitative and quantitative Ofcom research published today [April 02 2008].

The report reveals just how quickly social networking sites have become a part of Britons' lives. As well as widespread use amongst 8-17 year olds (49 per cent of internet users in that age group), the report also reveals that over a fifth (22 per cent) of adult internet users aged 16+ have their own online profile. The research finds that it is common for adults to have a profile on more than one site (the average being 1.6) and half of current adult social networkers say that they access their profiles at least every other day.

The research also shows how social networking sites are stretching the traditional meaning of 'friends'. Some users say that they derive enjoyment from 'collecting' lists of people with whom they have an online connection but often have never met.

Types of social networkers

The qualitative research suggests five distinct groups of people who use social networking sites :

  • Alpha Socialisersmostly male, under 25s, who use sites in intense short bursts to flirt, meet new people and be entertained
  • Attention Seekers – mostly female, who crave attention and comments from others, often by posting photos and customising their profiles
  • Followers – males and females of all ages who join sites to keep up with what their peers are doing
  • Faithfuls – older males and females generally aged over 20, who typically use social networking sites to rekindle old friendships, often from school or university
  • Functionals – mostly older males who tend to be single-minded in using sites for a particular purpose.

The qualitative research also suggests three distinct groups of people who do not use social networking sites

  • Concerned about safety – often older people and parents concerned about safety online, in particular making personal details available online
  • Technically inexperienced – often people over 30 years old who lack confidence in using the internet and computers
  • Intellectual rejecters – often older teens and young adults who have no interest in social networking sites and see them as a waste of time

Privacy and safety

Despite being one of the main reasons cited by some respondents for not using social networking sites, privacy and safety are not a top of mind concern for those who use social networking sites. The research found that:

  • 41 per cent of children and 44 per cent of adults leave their privacy settings as default 'open' which means that their profiles are visible to anyone
  • 34 per cent of 16-24 year olds are willing to give out sensitive personal information such as their phone number or email address (Get Safe Online Research), and
  • 17 per cent of adult users said that they talked to people on social networking sites that they didn't know and 35 per cent spoke to people who were 'friends of friends'.
The research also found that some 27 per cent of 8-11 year olds who are aware of social networking sites and have internet access have an online profile. While s ome of these are on sites intended for younger children, the presence of underage users on social networking sites intended for those aged 13 or over was confirmed by the research. In addition, while 65 per cent of parents claim to set rules on their child's use of social networking sites, only 53 per cent of children said that their parents set such rules.

Other key findings
  • Facebook is the most popular site with adults followed by MySpace and then Bebo. For children aged between 8 and 17, Bebo was the most used social networking site
  • A minority of younger women reported creating fake profiles for fun;
    Some teenagers and adults in their early twenties reported feeling 'addicted' to social networking sites and were aware that their use was squeezing their study time, and
  • A minority of people reported being aware of bullying through social networking sites and some younger users admitted using social networking sites to 'get back' at people they had fallen out with.


Executive Summary


Slide Show


Full Report


Annex 3: Social Networking Qualitative research


Video: Ofcom's Research on Social Networking




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