8-12 year-olds and online social interaction


A new report was released last week that zeroed in on online social interaction among youth between the ages of 8 and 12.  The “Tween Internet Safety Survey” found that at least half lie about their age online (in keeping with our own findings from discussions with kids around the nation).  They also found that approximately half of those 11- and 12-year-olds have their own cell phones.  This number seems a bit high to me, but the research was conducted among children with “online access” – and so that population may have more access to technology (and wealth) than a completely random group of kids.  Finally, there seems to be some sort of a divide between 8-10 and 11-12, in that the latter group participates significantly more online with personal email, instant messaging, texting, and sending multimedia over their cell phones.  Many parents are deciding to allow increased computer- and cell-phone use when their children venture into middle school and the data reflects this.  With more kids embracing technology in elementary school, though, similar findings in the future will trend in that direction.  This has positives and negatives.  Our hope is that parents educate their kids before providing the technology, and that teachers and administrators proactively fill in the gaps.


  1. Hi Sameer,

    Very interesting! The numbers correlate well with the numbers I have been gathering informally for about 2 years now. As I speak to parent and teacher (and some student) groups, I ask them to guesstimate about how many kids have cell phones in schools. I was initially blown away, then continually amazed, by the consistency with which I get 90-95% estimate of kids in secondary schools – middle schools and up.

    Along with this is the fact that I have been invited to speak to more and more elementary parent, teacher groups in the last year or so. They pretty consistently indicate that at least half of their kids have phones with them. For all age groups, this cuts across ethnic, language, gender and socio-economic lines.

    I totally agree with you on the proactive intervention of parents and educators. And as educators, I'd really love to see up co-opt the technology! Let's have more teachers podcast their lessons, text homework assignments, etc.



  2. I am not necessariy in favor of teachers 'podcasting lessons' or 'texting' homework assignments, as I feel this is way to broad. There are those individual students who are not able to afford these technologies, and this type of teacher, student interaction may further alienate the student. However, I completely agree that this is a phenomenon that is not slowing down. With cell phones and especially text messaging becoming ever so popular today, kids need to be taught that they can and will be held responsible for things they say/write on their cellular phones. We need these adolescents to know that there is technology to track down cell phone/ computer usage so that they stop feeling invincible to the consequences they otherwise would endure, had they said what they said in the school halls.

    I strongly support the idea of having after school seminars with faculty, students, and parents going over computer use and helping to ensure responsible use. Cell phones surely should be closely monitored by parents. A simple checking of the inbox three or four times a week (and than matching it up with the phone records to see if the adolescent is disobeying you by deleting messages)may be an inconvenient, yet necessary step when an adolescent is first given the priveledge of getting a phone.

  3. The problem with networks targeting young kids is the fact we can’t be sure if they’ll be safe from predators. Predators are well aware of those types of networks, I wouldn’t feel safe allowing one of my nephews to post his pictures on any type of social network. We can never assume because a website is being monitored that it is safe, no one can predict when a predator is pretending to be a child to obtain certain information they can use to their advantage. So in my option just say no to social network for kids unless they are educational.

  4. Internet-based social networking is a “socialization framework that links individuals through some common purpose, interest, or characteristic”. Sort of like a nuclear family. Before internet was created and recognized as a global communication tool, people socialized on a small scale and had to travel, write, or actually talk face-to-face with someone if they had something to say. Now-a-days, youths are one click away from a virtual world of interaction where one can express their feelings on a large scale and keep in touch with friends and family. Studies have shown that, more teens and young adults are online than older adults. They own cell phones, iPod or mp3, gaming devices (with wireless connection), laptops, and have SNS like Facebook in which they share more content online, posting more than adults do. My 12 year old brother has every gaming device made with wireless access, a cell phone with internet access, unlimited texting and calls, computer access, and an mp3 player. When I was his age, I wasn’t even allowed to shave my legs or wear make-up! I didn’t to have a phone until I was able to pay for one myself and that goes the same with my laptop and internet access. I did have a Nintendo and maybe like 10 games I played and usually friends would have to come over to my house to play with me. In my opinion, kids are spoiled with this emerging advanced technology.

  5. I actually have a friend whose cousin is actively on facebook a lot and I think she's only 9 or 10 years old. I still think that is too young. most of the younger people on facebook is in the adolescent age group and that is younger than that. I think that these younger kids having a facebook is not good because there are predators out there that are computer savvy. Enough to find out what school they go to and things like that. It's tough to think about men and women actually doing that but it is reality we have sick people in this word. 

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