Thursday, May 3, 2007

Social Networking: MySpace and Beyond, Linda Braun

The room was so full they ran out of handouts (Linda’s a great presenter, so I’m not surprised). Her presentation talked about online social networking in general, with a focus on MySpace—its uses, and concerns about its use.

All her links are can be found at

She started by using as an example of social networking; while you are *watching* Justin you can *talk* about Justin!

Linda surveyed her vast crowd:
Most have used social networking online
Only a few have participated regularly in a social network
A dozen or so of us have MySpace accounts; a few libraries have accounts (generally to reach teens)

What exactly IS social networking? Legislation to block it from schools and public libraries often doesn’t define it, but it can encompass a wide variety of online spaces: from, to twitter, to blogs, RSS, YouTube, MySpace

Social networking characteristics: a site requiring registration, communication, making connections online.

“Making choices” is the key to using social networking; we need to help teens and other patrons with this. I.e., the issue is not the scary stuff, but how we manage the scary stuff. Adults are worried about safety; kids tell us about how they safeguard their personal information.

Instead of having a workshop on keeping kids safe, Linda suggested having a presentation where TEENS demonstrate how they use MySpace and how they keep themselves safe. Even if kids don’t know how to stay safe, they *think* they do. Better to empower kids in this process.

Linda suggested four recent books on the topic to look at (I’ll be requesting that our library order the three we don’t have):

MySpace Unraveled: What it is and how to use it safely. Larry Magid,Anne Collier

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens. Helping Young People Learn To Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly. Nancy E. Willard

Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social Aggression, Threats, and Distress. Nancy E. Willard

Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online. Anastasia Goodstein

MySpace pages can be customized (and changed, depending on mood, etc.)—this gives teenagers the chance to explore and let other people know what they’re up to (videos watched, recent music listened to, etc.).

You can vary the amount of information you provide: birthday, occupation, marital status, etc. Not all this information has to be included.

Friends in MySpace are like any others: a window to who you are. You can refuse to accept people as friends, make people special friends, only allow comments if you approve them first. You can keep up with friends by seeing what has been changed on their MySpace page. Bulletins—things friends have added—are a way a library with a MySpace page could keep in touch with customers, advertise events, etc. (My son uses his MySpace page primarily as a way to get bulletins from bands he likes.)

Non-members can view, but not “friend” people, or make comments.

Ads appear at the top of a MySpace page—research shows that teenagers don’t notice ads.
But this could be a problem for trustees if a library has a page.
How will the library select friends if they have a MySpace page?

Linda showed us the Hennepin County Library MySpace page, which is used as their website for teens—teens can search the catalog from the MySpace page—they get a large number of hits per day via MySpace. It provides an interactive place to find out about the library—information on new cds in the library, etc.

It’s a good idea for libraries to have MySpace and Facebook pages; maybe we don’t need a YA page on the library website at all. Facebook and MySpace pages can be connected.

Teenagers are more likely to connect via IM, or MySpace, rather than email.

Students going to college can connect with students already there before they go.

The biggest danger is the sense of invisibility; kids need to know they are NOT invisible on the web, and if parents can find them, other people can, too. (I know my son was surprised at how quickly I could find him, and his friends.)

There are many similar sites in addition to MySpace and Facebook, e.g. Eldersvoice, social networking for seniors.

Ways to track DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act) legistlation:


Barbara Friedman said...

Thank you Susan for summarizing this session so well. I quoted you in the Westminster blog at:

Susan Caulfield said...

Thanks, Barbara! But Linda Braun should get the credit for the ideas, not me. I just summarized her talk.