Social Media Changes Engagement for Teens and Tweens

Teens and, to a lesser degree, tweens develop stronger relationships with those they know both on- and offline. According to a collaborative study conducted by Alloy Media + Marketing and Harris Interactive, teen online social networks give an opportunity for brands to establish relationships.

Social networks and new communication platforms are causing a shift in how tweens (ages 8-12) and teens (ages 13-17) develop relationships. The younger cohort prefers to spend time with parents rather than friends (58 percent vs. 31 percent), while teens prefer to hang out with friends (56 percent vs. 22 percent). Although both groups count between 1 and 10 friends in their in-person groups of friends, differences occur online. Teens average 75 people on their online profiles; 52 on instant messenger (IM) buddy lists; 39 in e-mail contact lists; and 38 contacts on their cell phones.

Each medium is dominated by teen usage. Teens use e-mail and IM (74 percent vs. 26 percent) and text messaging (37 percent vs. 9 percent) more often than tweens.

“The shift extends to brands endeavoring to reach this influential audience as advertisers look to use the power of youth connectivity — and the evolving definition of ‘friend’ — to enable online propagation of their messages,” said Samantha Skey, SVP of strategic marketing for Alloy, in the report.

Real-world friendships are enhanced rather than replaced by online relationships. “Friendships that are nurtured in both ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds define a teen’s closest connections, depicting relationships that are more long-standing and intimate than those that are carried out in only one or the other,” the report said.

Eighty-seven percent of teens have friends they interact with both in person and online whom they have known for at least a year, and 77 percent consider those friends extremely close. In-person-only friendships are less often considered close; 52 percent describe relationships with in-person-only friends as close or very close. Over 36 percent of teens have friends they only know through online contact.

The survey was conducted in collaboration between Alloy and Harris Interactive. An online survey was taken by 1,487 children and teenagers, ages 8 to 18 living within the U.S. in August.

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