Teens Latch on to Social Computing Tools

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The use of social computing tools, particularly blogging, is booming among North American youths ages 13-17, according to a Forrester Research report published this week.


Forrester defines social computing as "a social structure in which technology puts power in communities, not institutions." Blogs and RSS feeds are among the most popular social computing tools, letting users publish their own content easily and filter incoming content.


The report, "Teens Take the Lead on Social Computing," was written by Forrester analyst Chris Charron. Forrester asked 2,093 online youths in November 2005 and 5,243 online adults in July 2005 about their familiarity with and use of blogging and RSS. Findings include:


· Twenty-one percent of online youths read and visit others' blogs regularly compared with 10 percent of adults. Among all blog readers, 53 percent of youths read blogs weekly or more often, almost twice the percentage of adults. Adults are more likely to dabble in blogging, with 72 percent reading blogs less than once a week.


· RSS use is considerably lower than blog readership and suffers from low general awareness: 74 percent of youths and 78 percent of adults have never heard of RSS, with just 8 percent of youths and adults using it. Though youths are more familiar with RSS, adults are the heavy users. Among users, 45 percent of adults check their RSS feeds at least daily compared with just 35 percent of youths. Of consumers familiar with RSS, nearly half use or plan to use it, suggesting that low awareness is the main reason for low adoption levels.


· RSS and blogs, like most emerging technologies, attract a tech-savvy demographic of early adopters. Youth and adult blog readers, blog publishers and RSS users have been online longer, are more likely to have broadband at home and have higher household incomes than the general Internet population. Adult social computing users skew younger and more male, but among youths 13-17, females are much more likely to be interested in blogs: Though girls make up just 39 percent of the online youth population, they are 50 percent of regular blog readers and 60 percent of blog publishers.


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