New Study Follows Kids On Social
You're 18 years old. What can social media do for you? What can it do to you? Social media benefits adolescents by creating connection, academic opportunities, and access to health information. On the other hand, it has created cyberbullying, sexting, and Facebook depression. But how true is any of this, and just what are adolescents doing on social media every day?
A new phase of a multi-year study -- kind of a digital version of the famous "7-Up" documentary series -- will attempt an answer. The research, led by Marion K. Underwood, a professor at the University of Texas, Dallas, actually began in 2003. Underwood, UT’s Ashbel Smith Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and her research group started a study on social aggression with a group of 175 nine-year-olds (third graders). Five years later, and before the students began ninth grade, they received BlackBerry devices from Underwood and her team. With lots of confidentiality and firewall arrangements, Underwood was able to embark on a new phase of the longitudinal study by recording each text message, photo, email, and IM.
Now the "kids" are graduating, but the study is continuing. The emphasis will now be on what the subjects are doing on social media. Their communications on Facebook, Twitter and other channels will be aggregated, archived and studied, with their approval. Doing that back-end work on this new chapter of the study, which is being funded by the National Institutes of Health, is social media archiving solutions company Arkovi.
Blane Warrene, CEO and co-founder of the Dover, Ohio-based firm, tells Marketing Daily that the shift in the focus of the study to social media makes perfect sense. "It's fascinating that the smart device ended up being the gateway to social media, and not just for Millennials, but for all of us,” he says. “An enormous shift has happened; Millennials have abandoned traditional email, and today they are social messaging. They aren't going back to Gmail or Yahoo to message, but to where their friends are."
Warrene says his company's job in the study will be to function silently, with as little impact as possible, and to make sure the data is secure "so that when someone participates they don't have to worry that their data is going to wind up in 9,000 other studies." He says the system is set up so that the user has to authenticate identity through Akovi when going on social platforms like Facebook. "That provides a security layer from the perspective of their participation. "The key is that we aren't putting an app in front of them to remind them to archive. They know it's happening because they are willing participants, but the nature of this is not to get in the way, not to taint the study. To get organic and legitimate content, we have to stay out of the way."