Independent consumer rights group Which? has launched its first online consumer rights community, that includes forums and topic areas for members to debate. One of these is whether toddlers should have social networking profiles, which opens up an interesting debate, considering a recent report shows that more than three quarters of children under the age of two have some kind of online presence.

AVG, which conducted the survey, [not a client] questioned over 2,000 mothers worldwide, and found some amusing / startling statistics…

81% of all children under the age of two have some kind of online presence, ranging from photos uploaded by parents, to a fully-fledged profile on a social networking site.

This is not hard to believe seeing as families and friends are so dispersed around the world nowadays. Putting photos on Facebook, FlickR and so on is arguably one of the quickest and most convenient ways for everyone to watch your baby grow up.

Thankfully,only 5% admitted that they had created Facebook profiles for their newborns. But nearly a quarter of parents upload prenatal sonograms to the web, something that seems rather personal to be shared so publicly.

So, are we living in a world that has gone a little mad, obsessed with posting every memory online? Is it even fair to create an ‘online footprint’ that your little one isn’t even aware of – or is it a harmless and effective way of sharing your fondest memories?

@natfut

 Social media is gaining a greater foothold in the lives of older Americans.

According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled from 22% to 42% over the past year. Half (47%) of internet users ages 50-64 and one in four (26%) users age 65 and older use social networking sites.

Most users of social networking tools are between 18 and 29 but this growth in older users shows that different segments of the population are getting involved. As we try to reach different social segments, looking at usage profiles across age groups can help us to better target audiences.

“While email may be falling out of favour with today’s teenagers, older adults still rely on it heavily as an essential tool for their daily communications. Overall, 92% of those ages 50-64 and 89% of those ages 65 and older send or read email and more than half of each group exchanges email messages on a typical day. Online news gathering also ranks highly in the daily media habits of older adults; 76% of internet users ages 50-64 get news online, and 42% do so on a typical day. Among internet users ages 65 and older, 62% look for news online and 34% do so on a typical day.”

While overall interest in social networking is growing amongst older users, this doesn’t necessarily translate into larger percentages using all social networking tools. According to the survey, one in 10 (11%) online adults ages 50-64 and one in 20 (5%) online adults ages 65 and older now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.

In order to reach the right people with the right message via social media, it is important to look at what segments of the population are involved in social networking and what online tools are most applicable to their social segment. As the survey tells us, the number of older internet users are getting involved with social networking is growing rapidly but their activities online are still largely dominated by other things. 

@Matthew_Whalley

In the social media bubbles which we all now populate, the quest to reach an online idyll of collaboration and sharing has long been alluded to. The empowerment the internet has provided has made the recommendations of friends and those in our networks a very strong currency. Yet there is a gap between how well this can actually be integrated beyond certain silos, but a gap which looks to have been closed somewhat by announcements this week from Facebook and Spotify.

Announced at the company’s f8 conference, the Open Graph from Facebook lets users ‘like’ something outside of the Facebook platform. This is then shared with a URL on their profile, whilst visitors to whichever website has taken your fancy will also flag which of their friends have liked certain content or any comments that have been left.

This is big news for brands in terms of cross promotion as it provides a simple way of harnessing the golden egg that is word of mouth marketing. Whilst any good company  is already on top of this, these changes will also expose any brands who aren’t on top of their social media profile. Facebook now has the capability to implement user recommendations and flag advocates in your network automatically rather than relying on users to proactively share, something which adds huge value to consumers in terms of integration and collaboration.

Spotify is looking to do the same with music with the unveiling of its upgraded services this week. The changes look for the first time to make music genuinely viral. Whilst the original service may have already changed the way we listen to music, it is now looking to push iTunes out of the way by doing everything it does and more by synching with Facebook to pull in your friends playlists and then allowing you all to swap, recommend, vilify…..

The video above explains it better than I will but all in all it strikes me as a very strong reason to make the move to the Premium version of the service and, like the Facebook development, takes out one of the processes between your friends recommendations and the content you are consuming.

No doubt this trend of simplifying the journey and process between our ‘networks’ and our ‘content’ is one which will continue with rapid pace -  there are the expected rumours that Apple is due to bringing out its own offering on the music sharing side of things, whilst as ever, it is only a matter of time before Google tries to assure us that it owns the internet, not Facebook.

@AJGriffiths

A wonderful video by @tomscott is currently doing the rounds following his excellent presentation at Ignite London 2 – follow the link below, it’s about five minutes long so watch while you chow down your lunch as it’s absolutely superb.

Mob (a near-future science fiction story) by Tom Scott from hurryonhome on Vimeo.

Having recently finished reading the mind bendingly brilliant ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ by Neil Postman this seems an aptly Huxleyan sci-fi story, taking much of Postman’s thoughts on the impact of TV and entertainment on society to a new social media level…

A brilliant story – and unerringly feasible too.

@wonky_donky

It used to be said that an Englishman’s castle is his home and certainly it was from a privacy point of view.

A great deal has been written on the nature of privacy in the social media age recently but the scale of the change was brought home to me by the tragedy of Ashleigh Hall, who was murdered after meeting up with a ‘friend’ she had met through her Facebook account.

The Facebook page showed Peter Chapman as a teenager when in reality he was a 35 year old registered sex offender.  As the Daily Mail headline across half the front page asked  ‘Who’s Your Child Talking to on Facebook Tonight?”.

The sheer openness of social media is at stake.  As stated a home used to be castle in the late 20th century: electronic family life took place within closed channels; the telephone was fixed and family regulated; television was a joint activity involving parental guidance; and if anything the most social form of content was music.

The level of interaction with the outside world introduced by the world wide web was unimaginable.  Today, as the web celebrates its sixteenth birthday, we don’t appear to have developed a full understanding of what this new form of privacy means.

It is easy to dismiss the Daily Mail and threats from a new order of privacy that is being ushered in by the widespread adoption of social media, but it’s impact is profound.  One reaction may be to see if we can re-engineer the old world of privacy.

Yet this is an option that could be self defeating, as clearly the need to educate and create new behaviours is at the heart of safe behaviour in a social media society.  To ignore this and pretend children are not going to access social media and networking sites would be to deny them this protection.   Yet with all the education in the world mistakes can happen.

So, should society regulate to create greater protection, should it be illegal to present an image of oneself that is patently false?

A truly adequate response requires an understanding of what privacy means in this new world, and the creation of social systems that help prepare and guide people from many aspects.

The social media industry itself must face this challenge head on and in conjunction with government, education and consumer groups otherwise the arguments for regulation take root.

@Naked_Pheasant

NOTE: interesting that since this was drafted, further developments have meant the Mail has had to come out and apologise for the Facebook accusations (brilliantly summarised by @ruskin147 here)

You wouldn't though, would you?

You wouldn't though, would you?

It’s not an original observation to say that the rise of social media and networking has paved the way a breed of self-obsessed, self serving, egoists. And whilst that might be the extreme end of the spectrum, it’s hard to deny that we have adopted a culture where we are continually encouraged to ‘broadcast yourself’.

We all know why it has proved to be so popular, we’re inherently nosey and want to know instantly what our family/peers/crushes are getting up to, wherever they happen to be and vice versa. Social networking is the perfect tool to do this.

Plus, it has also given people the chance to move out of obscurity and into the limelight. Scantily clad girls and women are plastered across profile pages everywhere – social networking sites these days often look like the equivalent of a third division Miss World contest. The words of Bros, ‘when will I be famous’ ring in my ears…

What are the consequences of this self promotion? One is to give airtime (and I’m sure a huge pay packet) to the likes of Tila Tequila, ‘the most popular artist’ on MySpace. Tila’s antics I’m sure will inspire other young ladies to follow her example in bid to be recognised as a sex symbol on a global level. Sadly, these D level celebrities used to be confined to their national borders, but we have technology to thank for their springboard to stardom. Social media has the ability for an individual to reach people across the world and make them an international phenomenon.

But even if fame isn’t on the agenda – what is? Why are people so willing to be poked by people they don’t know? Technology has given us a new forum to meet people, and social networks are a safe haven to promote our better assets and also hide our unattractive traits. Let’s hope there aren’t any nasty surprises when you take things offline and into the real world! For 2009 the online dating industry is expected to top $1.049 billion and is likely to grow at a rate of 10 percent. These stats support that technology has opened the flood gates for singletons, ready to find love, or simply get a leg over.

Recently asked in the Evening Standard- respondents were asked if they would you use Facebook to get sex – where a number of them answered yes. It begs the question, has technology made us more daring, or simply more desperate?

Against our better judgements, it’s not uncommon to befriend people online we don’t know- the caution we would use in our everyday lives is somehow forgotten. Maybe it’s the stroking of egos, or just the fun of flirting, but striking up ‘friendships’ with strangers online is a growing trend. But all this talk of me, me, me, means that actually you might be playing into the hands of someone more sinister. When you think of online predators, we can be quick to dismiss that we’re not at risk. But, the fact that sex offenders in Illinois have been prohibited from using social networking sites goes to show that social networks are places where victims are identified, targeted and also where personal information can be obtained and used against you.

From a personal experience, posting even the most minor piece of information duped me talking to someone I don’t know online. I thought I knew ‘John Taylor’ who befriended me on Facebook, through university. We shared the same city and some friends, so when he struck up a conversation I assumed we might know each other. It didn’t take too long for me to find out actually, I had no relation to this person at all – and in fact – he was messaging me from a prison cell!

Despite technology giving us the chance to bridge the physical distance between people, it also gives people enough distance to do things they might not dare to do when face-to-face. Would John Taylor be so brave to start chatting to me online if we met in the street? Doubtful given his current housing situation…

It’s scarily easy to obtain personal information through social networking sites, and then be duped into believing you know whoever approaches you. Tech News World reported that if you’re not careful, scammers can obtain enough information about you to rip you off. And according to research from PC World, it is estimated with free dating sites at least 10 percent of new accounts created each day are from scammers.

The secondary consequence of all this self promotion means that cyber-criminals can easily find out where you live, where you work, what tube you get, what parties you’ve been too – all making a very believable story that a stalker could actually know you.

There are some things you can’t control about the internet; the rise of talentless, fame hungry, desperate and horny people are some of them, but something you can control is what you post online about yourself. It’s just a matter of modesty – broadcast yourself, but just not too much.

Pam Chowdhury (currently not on twitter… yes, yes we know… we’re working on that)

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