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Social Networking Habits of American Youth

For today's American teen, friendships are developed in areas beyond the school walls or their neighborhoods. Alloy Media + Marketing and Harris Interactive findings from a collaborative study offer an emerging picture of what friendship means to today's youth.

New technologies shift means of communication across this 'digital generation,' as teens come to define their closest circles by those they are connected with both online and offline.

The study depicts a generation more at ease through virtual communication, with many reporting they are more likely to reveal their true selves and to share more personal information with friends online than face-to-face.

Youth connect with each other in a variety of ways and favor certain means of connecting over others. Both tweens and teens are most likely to spend time with their friends in school and outside of school, by getting together with friends in person and speaking to them on the telephone. Teens are much greater users of email or Internet Messaging (IM) (74 percent vs. 26 percent) and text messaging (37 percent vs. 9 percent) than their tween counterparts.

Talking to friends in person is the most cited favorite way for teens to stay in touch (53 percent); however this preference is strikingly higher among tweens (81 percent). Fewer teens and tweens favor staying in touch with their friends through technologies such as IM (16 percent vs. 2 percent), cell phones (11 percent vs. 3 percent), email (4 percent vs. 1 percent) and text messaging (4 percent vs. <1 percent). Tweens are more likely than teens to favor landline phones as a way to stay in touch with their friends (12 percent vs. 8 percent).

Social circles have widened in the age of digital media, causing a shift in perception of social status among today's youth. The number of friends young people attract to their social network profiles is an indicator of their status among peers.

Most teens (59 percent) report having between one and ten friends while more tweens (69 percent) report having that many friends. However, the number of friends appears to increase when the term "friend" is put in the context of an online profile or IM buddy list.

Teens that have these types of lists have an average of 75 people on their online profile, 52 on their IM buddy list, 39 on their email contact list and 38 contacts on their cell phone.

This survey was developed in collaboration with Alloy Media + Marketing. This research was conducted online by Harris Interactive among 1,487 children and teenagers (ages 8 to 18) within the United States between August 16 and August 24, 2006.

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