Social networking not just child’s play

Once the domain of teens and young adults, social networks are attracting more older members than ever before. Generation Y users still outnumbers their parents, but the share of adult Internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years, up from 8% in 2005 to 35% now, according to a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The survey found that about three-quarters of U.S. adults go online, and 35% of them use social networking sites, such as MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn. For the younger users, two-thirds of online 12-to-17 year olds also use these social networking sites and fully three-quarters of 18-to-24 year olds have profiles. Only 7% of Internet users who are 65 or older are on the sites.

The median ages of primarily entertainment and communication-driven MySpace and Facebook users were 26 and 27, respectively. LinkedIn, a career-focused site, on the other hand, had a median age of 40.

Social networking was a focal point of news and discussion in 2008, earning online giants MySpace and Facebook a spot on Telephony’s biggest wireless influencers of the year. What started as small, isolated online communities has spread into the mobile world, enterprises and applications, taking all demographics and ages in its wake. Especially in a down economy, consumers are turning to social networks to connect with peers, potential employers, follow news or share photos.

Other notable findings of the study:

- Social networkers are equally split between males and females.

- Social networks are more often used for entertainment and personal reasons versus professional.

- Half of adult social networkers have a profile on MySpace.

- More than one-third of social networkers visit their profile every day.

- More than half of adult social network users have more than one profile online, and 83% of users with multiple profiles maintain them on different sites rather than multiple identities on the same site.

- One in 10 Internet users has deleted an online profile.

- Nearly two-thirds of adults restrict access either to their profile or to content on their profile.

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