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CREATING & CONNECTING//Research and Guidelines on Online Social — and Educational — Networking


Creating & Connecting//The Positives . . . . . . . . Page 1 Online social networking
Creating & Connecting//The Gaps . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 4 is now so deeply embedded in the
lifestyles of tweens and teens that
Creating & Connecting//Expectations it rivals television for their atten-
and Interests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 7 tion, according to a new study
Striking a Balance//Guidance and Recommendations from Grunwald Associates LLC
for School Board Members . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 8 conducted in cooperation with
the National School Boards
Nine- to 17-year-olds report
spending almost as much time
About the Study using social networking services
This study was made possible with generous support and Web sites as they spend
from Microsoft, News Corporation and Verizon. watching television. Among teens,
The study was comprised of three surveys: an that amounts to about 9 hours a
online survey of 1,277 nine- to 17-year-old students,
an online survey of 1,039 parents and telephone inter- week on social networking activi-
views with 250 school district leaders who make deci- ties, compared to about 10 hours
sions on Internet policy. Grunwald Associates LLC, an a week watching TV.
independent research and consulting firm that has
conducted highly respected surveys on educator and Students are hardly passive
family technology use since 1995, formulated and couch potatoes online. Beyond
directed the study. Hypothesis Group managed the basic communications, many stu-
field research. Tom de Boor and Li Kramer Halpern of
Grunwald Associates LLC provided guidance through-
dents engage in highly creative
out the study and led the analysis. activities on social networking
A more detailed market research report based on sites — and a sizeable proportion
this survey, including findings of interest to industry, of them are adventurous noncon-
is available commercially from Grunwald Associates
formists who set the pace for their
The study was carried out with support from Microsoft,
News Corporation, and Verizon. The views of the study Overall, an astonishing 96 per-
do not necessarily represent the views of the underwriters. cent of students with online access
report that they have ever used
any social networking technolo-
gies, such as chatting, text messag-
July 2007
ing, blogging and visiting online homework that requires Internet A Hot Topic of Social Networking: Education
communities, such as Facebook, use to complete. In light of the
MySpace and services designed study findings, school districts
specifically for younger children,
such as Webkins and the chat sec-
may want to consider reexamin-
ing their policies and practices
59% Percentage of
online students who say they
tions of Eighty-one and explore ways in which they
talk about any education-
percent say they have visited a could use social networking for related topics, including 59%
social networking Web site within educational purposes. college or college planning;
the past three months and 71 per- learning outside of school;
cent say they use social network- news; careers or jobs; politics,
ing tools at least weekly. Creating & ideas, religion or morals; and
Further, students report that Connecting// schoolwork
one of the most common topics The Positives
of conversation on the social There has been explosive growth
networking scene is education. in creative and authoring activi-
Almost 60 percent of students ties by students on social net-
who use social networking talk working sites in recent years.
about education topics online and,
surprisingly, more than 50 percent
With words, music, photos and
videos, students are expressing
50% Percentage of
talk specifically about schoolwork. online students who say they
Yet the vast majority of school
themselves by creating, manipu-
lating and sharing content online.
talk specifically about 50%
districts have stringent rules This is how they’re spending time:
against nearly all forms of social
networking during the school day Posting messages. More than one
— even though students and par- in five online students (21 per-
ents report few problem behaviors cent) say they post comments on
online. Indeed, both district lead- message boards every day; four
ers and parents believe that social out of 10 (41 percent) say they
networking could play a positive do so at least once a week. In
role in students’ lives and they 2002, only 7 percent posted daily
recognize opportunities for using and only 17 percent did so at
it in education — at a time when least once a week, according to a
teachers now routinely assign similar Grunwald Associates LLC Source: Grunwald Associates LLC

Creating & Connecting page 1

Sharing music. Nearly a third (32 once a week or more. Overall, six (16 percent) say they use
percent) of online students say nearly half (49 percent) say they online tools to create and share
they download music or audio have uploaded photos or artwork compositions that are more
that other users uploaded at least at some point. sophisticated than simple art or
once a week, or upload third- stories, including virtual objects,
Site-building. More than one in
party music or audio themselves such as puzzles, houses, clothing
10 online students (12 percent)
(29 percent). More than one in 10 and games. One in seven (14 per-
say they update their personal
(12 percent) say they upload cent) create new characters at
Web site or online profiles every
music or podcasts of their own least weekly, with nearly a third of
day; one in four (25 percent) do
creation at least weekly. these students doing so every day.
so at least weekly. In 2002, only 12
One in 10 (10 percent) start or
Sharing videos. Nearly a third (30 percent of tweens and teens even
contribute to online collaborative
percent) of online students say had a personal Web site or online
projects weekly or more fre-
they download and view videos profile.
quently. Ten percent send sugges-
uploaded by other users at least
Blogging. More than one in six tions or ideas to Web sites at least
once a week. Almost one in 10 (9
(17 percent) of online students once a week as well. Nearly one in
percent) say they upload videos of
say they add to blogs they’ve cre- 10 (9 percent) submit articles to
their own creation at least weekly.
ated at least weekly; 30 percent of sites at least weekly or create polls,
Overall, more than one in five
students have their own blogs. In quizzes or surveys online.
online students (22 percent) say
2002, blogs were a negligible blip
they have uploaded videos they Nonconformists — students who
on the online scene for students.
created at some point. step outside of online safety and
Creating content. In 2002, only behavior rules — are on the cut-
Sharing photos. Nearly one in
about one in seven students (13 ting edge of social networking,
four (24 percent) of online stu-
percent) said they were involved with online behaviors and skills
dents say they post photos or art-
in online art and story-sharing, that indicate leadership among
work created by others at least
either creating it or looking at their peers. About one in five (22
once a week. More than one in
others’ work. Today, many more percent) of all students surveyed,
five (22 percent) say they post
students report participating in and about one in three teens (31
photos or artwork of their own
just one creative process — percent), are nonconformists, stu-
creation at least that often. In
authoring — every week — and dents who report breaking one or
2002, only 12 percent said they
the range of their content creation more online safety or behavior
“exchange pictures with friends”
activities is much broader. One in rules, such as using inappropriate

page 2 National Scho ol Boards Asso ciation

language, posting inappropriate Popular Social Networking Activities
pictures, sharing personal infor- Percentage of online tweens and teens who say they do these activities at least weekly
mation with strangers or pretend-
ing to be someone they are not.
Nonconformists are signifi- 41% Posting messages
cantly heavier users of social net-
working sites than other students, 32% Downloading music
participating in every single type
of social networking activity sur- 30% Downloading videos
veyed (28 in all) significantly
more frequently than other stu- 29% Uploading music
dents both at home and at school
— which likely means that they 25% Updating personal Web sites or online profiles
break school rules to do so. For
example, 50 percent of noncon- 24% Posting photos
formists are producers and 38
percent are editors of online con- 17% Blogging
tent, compared to just 21 percent
and 16 percent, respectively, of 16% Creating and sharing virtual objects
other students.
These students are significantly 14% Creating new characters
more likely to be heavy users of
both new media (online, video 10% Participating in collaborative projects
games, handhelds) and old media
(TV, videos/DVDs, radio). But 10% Sending suggestions or ideas to Web sites
they are significantly more likely
to prefer new media to old. They 9% Submitting articles to Web sites
also are disproportionately likely
to learn about new sites and fea- 9% Creating polls, quizzes or surveys
tures online, through the “chat
vine” or other online mechanisms,
while other students are more
Source: Grunwald Associates LLC

Creating & Connecting page 3

Leading Their Generation likely to hear about them from Creating &
Nonconformists parents or teachers. Ironically, Connecting//
are significantly more likely than other students to be: nonconformists also are more in The Gaps
touch with their parents as well,

Traditional influentials (students who recommend products
frequently and keep up with the latest brands) communicating significantly
more frequently with their par- While social networking
39% ents in every way except in person seems omnipresent in the lives of
— online or by cell phone, for most tweens and teens outside of
27% example — than other students. school, most school districts are
Promoters (students who tell their peers about new sites These students seem to have cautious about its use in school:
and features online) an extraordinary set of traditional Most schools have rules against
41% and 21st century skills, including
communication, creativity, collab-
social networking activities:
• More than nine in 10 school dis-
25% oration and leadership skills and
tricts (92 percent) require par-
Recruiters (students who get a disproportionately technology proficiency. Yet they
ents and/or students to sign an
large number of other students to visit their favorite sites) are significantly more likely than
Internet use policy. Nearly all
other students to have lower
59% grades, which they report as “a
(98 percent) districts use soft-
ware to block access to inappro-
32% mix of Bs and Cs,” or lower, than
other students. However, previous
priate sites.
Organizers (students who organize a lot of group
• More than eight in 10 districts
research with both parents and
events using their handhelds) have rules against online chat-
children has shown that enhanced
ting (84 percent) and instant
23% Internet access is associated with
improvements in grades and
messaging (81 percent) in

10% school attitudes, including a 2003

• More than six in 10 districts (62
Networkers (students with unusually large networks survey by Grunwald Associates
percent) have rules against par-
of online friends) LLC. In any event, these findings
ticipating in bulletin boards or
42 friends suggest that schools need to find
ways to engage nonconformists in
blogs; six in 10 (60 percent) also
prohibit sending and receiving
17 friends more creative activities for aca-
demic learning.
e-mail in school.
• More than half of all districts
(52 percent) specifically prohibit
Source: Grunwald Associates LLC

page 4 National Scho ol Boards Asso ciation

any use of social networking Interestingly, districts that
sites in school. report that their parents are influ-
Still, despite the rules, there is ential in technology decision
Teachers School district leaders report
some officially sanctioned, educa- making are more active in social Requiring that teachers are now routinely
assigning homework that
tionally packaged social network- networking (71 percent vs. 59 Internet requires Internet use to complete,
ing occurring in schools. Almost percent in districts with low Use for no longer allowing equity con-
seven in 10 districts (69 percent) parental influence). Further, large, cerns to be a barrier:
say they have student Web site urban and Western districts are Homework
programs. Nearly half (49 per-
cent) say their schools participate
typically more active users of
social networking than other 96%
Nearly all school districts ( ) say that at least
in online collaborative projects districts. some of their teachers assign homework that
with other schools, and almost as requires Internet use to complete.
Students and parents report
many (46 percent) say their stu-
dents participate in online pen pal
fewer recent or current problems, 35%
More than a third of all school districts ( )
such as cyberstalking, cyberbully- say more than half of their teachers assign home-
or other international programs.
ing and unwelcome personal work that requires Internet use.
More than a third (35 percent)
encounters, than school fears and
say their schools and/or students More than nine out of 10 school districts of low
policies seem to imply. Only a
run blogs, either officially or in
the context of instruction. More
minority of students has had any
kind of negative experience with
socioeconomic status ( 94% ) say some of their
teachers assign Internet-based homework, and more
than one in five districts (22 per-
cent) say their classrooms are
social networking in the last three
months; even fewer parents report
than one in four of these districts (
more than half of their teachers do so.
) say
involved in creating or maintain-
ing wikis, Web sites that allow
visitors to add, remove or edit
that their children have had a
negative experience over a longer, 95%
Nearly all school districts ( ) say that at least
six-month period. some of their teachers are using Web pages to com-
content. municate assignments, curriculum content and
Most problems students and
Many school districts also use other information.
parents report are similar to the
social networking for professional
purposes. For example, more than
types of problems typically associ-
ated with any other media (televi-
More than eight out of 10 school districts ( 88% )
one in four districts (27 percent) subscribe to online educational services or learning
sion or popular music) or
say their schools participate in a management systems, or both. Of these subscribing
encountered in everyday life:
structured teacher/principal districts, 87 percent allow students to access these
• One in five students (20 per-
online community. services from home.
cent) say they have seen inap-

Creating & Connecting page 5

propriate pictures on social net- 3 percent of parents concur. or other personal information
working sites in the last three Fewer than one in 30 students to strangers. Similar differences
months; 11 percent of parents, (3 percent) say unwelcome occur between districts’ beliefs
referring to their own children strangers have tried repeatedly and students’ and parents’
over the last six months, concur. to communicate with them reported experiences with inap-
• Nearly one in five students (18 online; 3 percent of parents propriate material, cyberbully-
percent) say they have seen concur. Only about one in 50 ing and other negative
inappropriate language on social students (2 percent) say a incidents.
networking sites; 16 percent of stranger they met online tried to
parents concur. meet them in person; 2 percent
• Personally directed incidents, of parents concur. Only .08 per-
which are of serious concern to cent of all students say they’ve
students, parents and educators, actually met someone in person
are relatively rare. About one in from an online encounter with-
14 students (7 percent) out their parents’ permission.
say someone has asked The vast majority of students,

them for information then, seem to be living by the
Only about their personal online safety behaviors they
identity on a social net- learn at home and at school.
of all students say working site; 6 percent • School district leaders seem to
of parents concur. believe that negative experiences
they’ve actually About one in 14 stu- with social networking are more
dents (7 percent) say common than students and par-
met someone they’ve experienced self- ents report. For example, more
defined cyberbullying; 5 than half of districts (52 per-
in person from percent of parents con- cent) say that students provid-
cur. About one in 25 ing personal information online
an online encounter students (4 percent) say has been “a significant problem”
they’ve had conversa- in their schools, yet only 3 per-
without their tions on social network- cent of students say they’ve ever
ing sites that made given out their e-mail addresses,
parents’ permission. them uncomfortable; instant messaging screen names

page 6 National Scho ol Boards Asso ciation

Creating & Connecting social networking will help stu- an educational tool. Both also
// Expectations and dents “learn to express themselves demand an educational value and
Interests better creatively” and “develop purpose as a requirement for
global relationships.” social networking in school.

! While a significant per-

centage of educators require their
But district leaders are skepti-
cal at this point about the educa-
tional value of social networking.
Nearly nine in 10 district leaders
(87 percent) say “strong educa-
tional value and purpose” will be
students to use the Internet for Fewer than one in three (29 per- a requirement for them to permit
homework, school policies indi- cent) believe that social network- student access to any social net-
cate that many are not yet con- ing could help students improve working site. Urban (89 percent)
vinced about the value of social their reading or writing or express and rural (96 percent) districts
networking as a useful educa- themselves more clearly (28 per- feel particularly strongly about
tional tool or even as an effective cent). Somewhat more of them this, compared to their peers.
communications tool. This may (36 percent) hope that social net- More than seven in 10 parents
indicate that their experience with working will help students learn (72 percent) agree that educa-
social networking is limited. to work together to solve aca- tional value and purpose are
However, they are curious about demic problems. “important” or “very important.”
its potential — a sign that there Parents, on the other hand, Large proportions of district
may be some shifts in attitudes, have higher expectations. More leaders say that a strong emphasis
policies and practices in the future. than three in four (76 percent) on collaborative and planned
expect social networking to help activities (81 percent), strong
Both schools and especially par-
their children improve their read- tools for students to express
ents have strong expectations
ing and writing skills or express themselves (70 percent) and an
about the positive roles that
themselves more clearly; three out emphasis on bringing different
social networking could play in
of four (75 percent) also expect kinds of students together (69
students’ lives. District leaders say
social networking to improve percent) would be required for
they hope social networking will
children’s ability to resolve con- them to buy into social network-
help students “get outside the
flicts. Almost as many (72 per- ing for school use. But most also
box” in some way or another.
cent) expect social networking to would insist on adult monitoring
Nearly half of them (48 percent)
improve their children’s social (85 percent) and would continue
expect social networking to intro-
skills as well. to prohibit chat and instant mes-
duce students to “new and differ-
saging (71 percent) as conditions
ent kinds of students.” More than Both schools and parents are
of social networking use in
four in 10 (43 percent) hope interested in social networking as

Creating & Connecting page 7

Striking a Balance// including new technology. Clearly, Explore social networking sites.
Guidance and both district leaders and parents Many adults, including school
Recommendations for are open to believing that social board members, are like fish out
School Board Members networking could be such a tool of water when it comes to this
— as long as there are reasonable new online lifestyle. It’s important

! Parents and communities

place faith in school board mem-
parameters of use in place.
Moreover, social networking is
increasingly used as a communi-
for policymakers to see and try
out the kinds of creative commu-
nications and collaboration tools
bers and educators to protect stu- cations and collaboration tool of that students are using — so that
dents during the school day — choice in businesses and higher their perceptions and decisions
and that means securing their education. As such, it would be about these tools are based on
safety when they’re online. It is wise for schools, whose responsi- real experiences.
appropriate, bility it is to prepare students to
Consider using social networking
then, for transition to adult life with the
for staff communications and
Safety policies school boards skills they need to succeed in both
professional development. In dis-
to approach arenas, to reckon with it.
tricts where structured online
remain important, as social net- Finally, despite the large
professional communities exist,
working with majorities of students who seem
participation by teachers and
does teaching students thoughtful to be highly active social butter-
administrators is quite high.
policies that flies online, equitable access is still
Nearly six in 10 districts (59 per-
about online safety maintain their a critical consideration for
cent) say at least half of their staff
parents’ and schools. It is incumbent on
members participate, while nearly
and responsible online communities’ schools to recognize the silent
four in 10 (37 percent) say 90
trust. minority of students who do not
percent or more do so. These
expression — but students At the same have easy access to computers, cell
findings indicate that educators
time, parents phones and other devices com-
find value in social networking —
may learn these lessons and communi- monly used for social networking.
and suggest that many already are
ties also expect Here are some ways that
comfortable and knowledgeable
better while they’re schools to take school board members could
enough to use social networking
advantage of strike the appropriate balance
for educational purposes with
actually using potentially between protecting their students
their students.
powerful edu- and providing a 21st century edu-
social networking tools. cational tools, cation:

page 8 National Scho ol Boards Asso ciation

Find ways to harness the educa- Pay attention to the noncon- but students may learn these les-
tional value of social network- formists. The survey findings sons better while they’re actually
ing. Some schools and educators identify this group of students as using social networking tools.
are experimenting successfully highly engaged and skilled at
Encourage social networking
with chat rooms, instant messag- social networking and as an influ-
companies to increase educa-
ing, blogs, wikis and more for ential leadership cadre among
tional value. Educational leaders
after-school homework help, their peers. Yet they seem to be
should work with social network-
review sessions and collaborative lukewarm about traditional
ing companies to increase services
projects, for example. These activ- schoolwork and academics, per-
that are explicitly educational in
ities appeal to students — even haps because the allure of social
nature, via informal or formal ini-
students who are reluctant to par- networking is more compelling
tiatives that highlight educational
ticipate in the classroom. than traditional ways of learning.
By reaching out to these students
Ensure equitable access. Schools
and tapping into their interests,
have a role to play in closing the
educators could yield a double
digital divide with social network-
benefit: a heads-up on the next
ing, just as they have with
new things that many other stu-
Internet access. Most students
dents are likely to gravitate to
have some way to get online,
online and improved academic
either in their schools, at public
results for the nonconformists.
libraries or at home — as educa-
tors apparently recognize when Reexamine social networking
they assign homework that policies. Many schools initially
requires Internet use. But educa- banned or restricted Internet use,
tors will have to consider the only to ease up when the educa-
often-impromptu exchanges and tional value of the Internet
instant access that are characteris- became clear. The same is likely
tic of social networking as they to be the case with social net-
plan ways to incorporate it into working. Safety policies remain
educational experiences. important, as does teaching stu-
dents about online safety and
responsible online expression —

Writing and design by Vockley•Lang

Creating & Connecting page 9

The National School
Boards Association
is a not-for-profit federa-
tion of state associations of
school boards across the
United States. Our mission
is to foster excellence and
equity in public education
through school board lead-
ership. NSBA represents
the nation’s 95,000 school board members that gov-
ern 14,890 local school districts serving more than
47 million public school students.

The Technology Leadership

Network (TLN) is NSBA’s district
membership program designed
for education leaders who estab-
lish policies and implement tech-
nology decisions that enhance
teaching and learning, operations,
and community outreach efforts.

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