An annual study of British youths between the ages of 13 and 17 by Logicalis found that social network use is on the decline. The study found that 78% of British youngsters using social networks no longer disclose personal information and are becoming more savvy about their digital fingerprint. On its own that’s great news as it means fews youths who will fall victim to online predators.
But that might be bad news for social networks. The study found that many youths have stopped using social networking sites all together, and that a majority say they prefer face-to-face communication with peers than communications over sites like Facebook, which is the most popular social network in the UK. 46% say that social networking has become less important to them, and that they are using online social networks less frequently.
Of 11.3 million Brits using Facebook, 13-17 year olds make up just 873,000 of them. However, 18-25 year old make up nearly 5 million British Facebook users, suggesting that use at post-secondary schools in Britain is high, as it is in the United States where I attended university (and having a Facebook account was a rite of passage). It will be interesting to see if the trends that suggest less interest in social networking among the youngest users continue once they hit university age.
Young web users have always been a fickle set. From Geocities and Tripod, to Friendster, to MySpace, to Facebook, young social networking users have often left a trail of sites in their wake as they jump to the new hip thing. Is social networking itself about the get the boot by young users? Logicalis thinks so, dubbing these young users the so-called “Realtime Generation” after their preference of face-to-face communication over digital chatting.
Note: There was some talk this past winter about a down turn in Facebook traffic in the UK, but that turns out to be mostly seasonal.