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TITLE/TOPIC: Social Networking PROBLEM STATEMENT: The impacts of social networking sites on the social life, of students of St Stephens

College, between the ages of 11- 18yrs? INTRODUCTION:

Only recently in Trinidad and Tobago have social networking become a prominent issue. Great deals of speculation have been made about the

impacts of social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter on users lives particularly on youths. Some fear that SNS would diminish proper communication skills, human relationships and contacts, as well as cause social seclusion. However others believe that with the advent of social networking sites especially the modern day marvel Facebook, this facility could be described as a social utility that helps people communicate faster and more efficiently with their friends, family and co-workers all over the world. As could be expected, researchers have begun to put to empirical test these claims, reaching a more balanced understanding of SNS. The research which this study would pursue investigates both the positive and negative impacts of social networking on youth, with emphasis on security, communication skills, and formal education. The age group to be studied is between 11 to 18 years, while the physical space of the research focus is St. Stephens College, Craignish Village, Princes Town, Trinidad.

The purpose of this study is to discover the extent of the influence of social networking sites on the social lives of youths and to assess the involvement of parents in their childs use of social networking sites. This will serve to facilitate the evaluation of beliefs made by individuals about the pros and cons of social networking. The value of the research would be to help parents and guardians to be more aware of the impacts of social networking on the lives of their children and as such monitor their childrens use of these sites more stringently. It can also help youths to be more mindful of how these sites should be used to their benefit without placing themselves and their future at risk.

Research questions: 1. What are the positive impacts of social networking on youths lives? 2. What are the negative impacts of social networking on youths lives? 3. How aware are parents are of their childs use of social networking sites?

Social networking sites are virtual communities (Lenhart and Madden, 2007). Just like chat services, SNS incorporate a list of other users with whom individuals can share a connection. But unlike any other web service, SNS allow individuals to make visible their list of connections to others and to traverse their social networks (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Hence, more than other virtual communities born online, SNS are usually online communities created and maintained to reflect offline relationships. Social networks are also being used by teachers and students as a communication tool. Because many students are already using a wide-range of social networking sites, teachers have begun to familiarize themselves with this trend and are now using it to their advantage. Teachers and professors are doing everything from creating chat-room forums and groups to extend classroom discussion to posting assignments, tests and quizzes, to assisting with homework outside of the classroom setting. Social networks are also being used to foster teacher-parent communication. These sites make it possible and more convenient for parents to ask questions and voice concerns without having to meet face-to-face. "Benniger (1987) describes how mass media has gradually replaced interpersonal communication as a socializing force. Further, social networking sites have become popular sites for youth culture to explore themselves, relationships, and share cultural artifacts". Many teens and

social networking users may be harming their interpersonal communication by using sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Stated by Baroness Greenfield, an Oxford University Neuroscientist, "My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment." The convenience that social network sites give users to communicate with one another can also damage their interpersonal communication. Sherry Turkle, the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, stated, Networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we feel utterly alone. And there is the risk that we come to see others as objects to be accessed-and only for the parts we find useful, comforting, or amusing. Furthermore, social network sites can create insincere friendships, Turkle also noted, They nurture friendships on social-networking sites and then wonder if they are among friends. They become confused about companionship. Parents are unaware of the dangers their children face by posting details about themselves on social networking sites, according to research commissioned by Ofcom. The survey of 5,000 adults and 3,000 children found that nearly half of children aged between eight and 17 have a profile on one or more of the popular social networking sites. Despite two-thirds of parents saying they set rules for their children regarding the use of social networking sites, one in five parents said they were unaware that their child may have made their

profile public. (http://www.computeractive.co.uk/ca/news/1911962/childrenputting-danger-social-networking-sites#ixzz1f25sgAHt)

Privacy concerns with social networking services have been raised growing concerns amongst users on the dangers of giving out too much personal information and the threat of sexual predators. According to a study conducted by the information Commissioners Office (ICO) (2006), more than half of those social network users polled revealed that the majority of their information was available for public consumption on a social networking page. Citizens and governments have been concerned by a misuse by child and teenagers of social networking services, in particular in relation to online sexual predators. A 2008 panel concluded that technological fixes such as age verification and scans are relatively ineffective means of apprehending online predators.

A common misuse of social networking sites such as Facebook is that it is occasionally used to emotionally abuse individuals. Online bullying, also called cyber-bullying, is a relatively common occurrence and it can often result in emotional trauma for the victim. Depending on the networking outlet, up to 39% of users admit to being cyber-bullied. Danah Boyd, a researcher of social networks quotes a teenager in her article, Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites. The teenager expresses frustration towards

networking sites like MySpace because it causes drama and too much emotional stress. There are not many limitations as to what individuals can post when online. Individuals are given the power to post offensive remarks or pictures that could potentially cause a great amount of emotional pain for another individual. Social networking can also affect the extent to which a person feels lonely. In a Newsweek article, Johannah Cornblatt explains Social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace may provide people with a false sense of connection that ultimately increases loneliness in people who feel alone. John T. Cacioppo, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, claims that social networking can foster feelings of sensitivity to disconnection, which can lead to loneliness. However some scholars have expressed that concerns about social networking are often exaggerated and poorly researched.

In this research paper I will be using quantitative data. Quantitative data usually takes the form of statistical or numerical information. My main reason for choosing to employ the use of this type of data is the fact that quantitative research facilitates theory formation because as a large amount of data is collected the data can display cause and correlation and therein makes the formation of theory is possible. The use of this type of data is also advantageous in that it provides objectivity; therefore respondents will not in any way be influenced by my personal views. The instrument used to collect data was questionnaires. A questionnaire is a number of preset questions that can contain openended, fixed choice or a combination of both types of questions. 54 students (27 girls and 27 boys- 6 from each age group ranging from 11-19 years old) were chosen by stratified random sample from St Stephens College from forms 1 to 6. They were approached individually and asked whether they would like to participate in the study. All agreed. A 17 item questionnaire was administered to all students on the 29th of February during the lunch break and was collected after school. 15 items were of forced-choice type and two were open-ended. The advantages of the questionnaire are that the data can be easily tabulated, measured and analyzed, and they are easy to administer. However some disadvantages are that fixed choice questions can possibly

force a respondent to choose an answer that does not capture his/her feelings about an issue and that some respondents may provide erroneous information or treat the issue too lightly. However these problems were overcome by incorporating open ended questions in my questions and secondly in order to prevent respondents from treating the issue lightly I made an effort to impress upon the respondents the importance of the research and the necessity for them to answer all questions honestly and seriously.





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