The Age of Facebook: Kids and Gamers on Social Media

Facebook may have started as a collegiate trend, but we all know it has grown far beyond that in our culture today. First high school, then middle school, then the “bigger kids:” parents, aunts/uncles and even grandparents began Facebook stalking. Besides cramping some young people’s style, does this range of age groups on Facebook create any larger problems?

Girl on Computer

Are kids joining Facebook too early?

An article recently published by CNN explains that most pre-adolescents are getting social-media accounts, even if they do not meet the minimum age requirement. Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Institute writes that,

“There’s no effective way to age-verify … children very quickly realize, ‘I just say I’m 14 years old, and they’ll let me use this.’ “

The article cites some scientists who fear that this is compromising the attention spans of children as their brains develop and some parents are worried that their children are become prey for online predators by using social media. However, the ultimate conclusion was that there was no way to truly measure the effect of social media on children. “We’ve lost the control group,” said Kaveri Subrahmanyam, a professor of psychology at California State University-Los Angeles. “How do you find a group of kids that are not using the computer?”

  • When did you start using social media?
  • What do you think is the appropriate age for users to get accounts?
  • Do you think it is a conflict of interests that Facebook is used as a career networking tool for adults and for “little Susie” to chat with her fellow 11-year-old friends?

I also came across an article in “USA Today” about trends in social gaming, particularly on Facebook. The new outlet for gaming seems to have converted former non-gamers into obsessed Facebook patrons, spending hours a day monitoring virtual farms (on Farmville, a popular game on Facebook). According to Atul Bagga, a gaming analyst at market researcher Think Equity,

“The Wii democratized social gaming, but the always-on Internet took it further. So, many people who would not play games now do so on Facebook.”

I knew that games like Farmville were really popular among people of all ages (our receptionist even has a Farmville farm). However, I didn’t realize how much money they were bringing in. Bagga estimates the $500 million to $600 million of revenue from social-gaming to at least double in 2010, bringing that figure to $1 billion.

Farmville

Facebook's popular FarmVille game allows users to manage their own virtual farm.

These games are even beating out multiplayer online games in terms of users and revenue. According to the article,

Much of the revenue is pouring in via a new model in the USA called “freemium,” as well as old-fashioned advertising. The freemium model, with roots in Asia, is built on the concept of giving away games, then charging players 25 cents to $10 to buy so-called virtual goods that enhance their gaming experience.

The only problem with these games seems to be longevity, according to analysts. The quicker they gain popularity, the quicker they lose it. But, there always seems to be something new around the corner…

Sick of FarmVille? Zynga, the maker of Farmville, introduced FishVille last week. Keep pet fish and harvest fish eggs for money. What will they think of next?

  • Do you play games on social media? Do you find them to be fun or “a waste of time”?
  • How do you think the “freemium” advertising model could help non-social-media Web sites?
  • Most importantly…will you get a FishVille?
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10 responses to “The Age of Facebook: Kids and Gamers on Social Media

  1. I didn’t start using social media until my junior or senior year of high school. Now that I am in college, all those current high schoolers seem so young to have facebook accounts. But I know an 11-year-old who are using facebook and that just freaks me out.

    As far as online gaming goes, I do not participate. I do think this is a waste of time. And I’m glad I did not start playing when these games first came on the scene, I can’t imagine the amount of time I would’ve spent on them.

  2. Gaming–huge waste of time. I’ve never gotten into it and, more importantly, I don’t have the time for it. (And no, I don’t intend to ever get Fishville.)

    Kids using computers–like, duh. While working at Best Buy, we had parents buying their 5- and 6-year-olds laptops to play games on. It’s sick and degrading, I think, especially when a parent will buy his or her 7-year-old son a Mature-rated “Halo” video game. But what do I know? I’m not a parent.

    Online social media and kids–yeah, kids have gotten smarter. It’s easier to do math now with all those calculators. So why not be 10 year old and start a FB account? Online stalkers scare the hell out of me, though. I’d never want my young child (if I had one) to have a FB, MySpace, etc. account.

    I think it’s frightening how advanced our youth have become. We’re sprouting new technology every day, and our kids gobble it up. I’m assuming that kids now spend more time on the computer then watching TV. Does anybody know the figures for this?

    • I agree that online predators make the Internet a scary place for children. But, I don’t even think a 13-year-old is knowledgeable enough to protect themselves against these threats. I think that’s the nature of the Internet beast: there is no way to verify much of anything.

      Here are a few findings on the time children spend on the Internet:

      1. From the National School Boards Foundation:

      ” In fact, once they start using the Internet, many children spend less time watching television; increased time reading newspapers, magazines and books; increased time playing outdoors; and increased time doing arts and crafts. The findings present a picture of American children whose involvement in a variety of activities continues and even increases–even as their Internet usage is rising.”

      http://www.nsbf.org/safe-smart/full-report.htm

      2. From the New York Times:

      “For children ages 10 to 14 who use the Internet, the computer is a bigger draw than the TV set, according to a study recently released by DoubleClick Performics, a search marketing company. The study found that 83 percent of Internet users in that age bracket spent an hour or more online a day, but only 68 percent devoted that much time to television.”

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/25/technology/25drill.html?_r=1

      Kids are becoming more devoted to the Internet, but television hasn’t taken too much of a hit, it seems.

  3. A couple years ago, I revisited my elementary school. The ratio of laptops and computers in each classroom was about 2:1, and I couldn’t help but recall sitting in the same classrooms years ago with only one HUGE mac. We learned how to type in middle school; today’s kids seem like they learn that stuff before they can walk. Impressive, but terrifying.

    I think becoming so computer-reliant at an early age can be bad though, especially when kids start spending more time interacting with their laptops and gaming systems than with other kids. Is there really anything wrong with playing outside more or getting involved in extracurriculars?

  4. I had a Xanga page when I was in 8th grade, and AIM of course. Social media started impacting my life at a fairly young age–but not like now. My sister and younger cousins are literally strapped into social media. Through iPhone applications, Farmville, Twitter–you name it.

    I think there are certain ages where having a Facebook is appropriate. For me, I like being able to stay in touch with friends from high school that I haven’t seen or talked to since graduation. I guess I don’t really see a point for a 12-year-old to have a Facebook account. When you’re that age you have what, maybe 50 friends? You see them all every day at school for the most part. At that young of an age, social media just causes drama and gets kids into trouble. Most of them have texting anyway. My sister who is a freshman sends around 17,000 a month–no big deal.

  5. My 13-year-old brother now has a Facebook. I know that the internet is the perfect place for junior-high drama to escalate (as Clara mentioned, our generation had AIM), but there are new things that bother me with social media like Facebook.

    As my brother friends my friends or older cousins etc who are too lazy to change their privacy settings, what sort of status updates is he likely to see? What kind of example are the photos of a family friends’ 21st birthday party going to set? I’m a retreat leader for a middle school back home and some of those kids have friended me as well, and I’m very conscious of what parts of my life I want them to be privy to.

    It’s one thing to watch TV shows that might have a few moments of questionable content, but it’s an entirely new beast when it’s someone a kid knows personally and looks up to. We used to be able to keep our worlds separate, but anymore that’s more and more difficult.

    • I do think that’s a challenge to determine what is and is not appropriate to put on your Facebook profile. We constantly have to be cognizant of who is on our friend list and what the appropriate image to present to the varied group of friends would be.

      But, I actually think it’s a good thing. We should be aware of what we’re publishing. Do we really need a place to publish embarrassing photos or write inappropriate comments for the public to see? Why do we need to share that?

      Pre-social media people didn’t have an outlet for that type of expression. Is it really necessary to our personal well-being/entertainment?

  6. I started when I was about 13. I used AIM and Myspace way back when you still had to be 18 to use it. It’s so easy to lie and say you are older than you are to get into these sites – I did it when I was younger. It’s crazy that these young kids that are only 10 years old are making a Facebook page. It seems like they should have better things to do with their time than play around on Facebook.
    As for gaming online I don’t do any of that, I was surprised to hear that it makes that much money!

    • I found it interesting in these articles that many parents have admitted to permitting their kids to create these accounts, even though they know there is an age limit and that their kids do not meet it. How do you think these websites decide upon that age limit?

  7. helllo my names moniraand i am a student.I would like to use the picture of the girl on the pc, as i’m using it to do my school work

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