Social Networking In Focus

From sites from MySpace To Facebook, social networking sites have taken off, to the enjoyment of many teens and young adults, and the consternation of many parents. What's behind the craze? Find out below.

What is social networking?

Simply, social networking is a way to seek connection and bond with others. It focuses on shared connections between people. Online communities help foster this.

How many people visit social networking sites?

Two of every three people in the United States now visit social-networking sites, and roughly 90 percent of young people are online. MySpace alone claims to have more than 70 million users, and more than 40 million of them log more than an hour on the site weekly; 20 million visit Xanga regularly.

For college students, Facebook is becoming the choice social-networking site — more than 85 percent of students participate if their campus offers membership. Some high schools have begun offering Facebook logins as well, liking its exclusivity to the scholastic community. As Facebook tends to serve older teens, Xanga is popular with tweens. Facebook is used by about 9 million college students.

What do teens actually do on MySpace?

Many adults remain perplexed, but hanging out on MySpace and other social-networking sites is sort of like the networking that adults do, except that teens aren't reaching out to their extended network of friends with some purpose in mind. Instead, as CBS News technology analyst Larry Magid explains in his new book, they're engaged in conveniently asynchronous but also real-time collective and interactive self-expression. Teens pop in to these sites to check for messages, look for the latest comments or blog postings, and type their reactions and comments.

Do these sites attract predators?

It's difficult to measure whether these sites attract predators. But the Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported 2,660 incidents of adults using the Internet to entice children into meeting in 2005. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in April that one in every five children who go online is solicited, and that at any given time 50,000 predators are online trolling for youth contact.

The Justice Department is set to spend more than $14 million this year on a national network of task forces working to catch Internet predators.

Read more about Social networking sites:

• What is MySpace? Check it out at MySpace.

• reported extensively on teens and technology in a feature called GenTech.

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