What is a social network? Who is on it? Which is the most common? Is it safe? ...These are common questions that many ask when social networking becomes a topic of conversation. It is understandable that so many people may have questions regarding social networking because it is so new. In fact, it is not even considered valuable enough for Webster's Dictionary to define! This week, I decided to look into this new found phenomenon of social networking and its value.
As part of my initial research, I went to a common place that many other visual learners may be familiar with, youtube. I was able to watch a video that described Social Networking in Plain English. This quick, two minute segment describes how most connections among people are "hidden" and social networking makes these "hidden opportunities" visual. Most social networks are found on the internet and meant for people to connect online. In most cases, users will have some type of profile that internet browsers will be able to find and connect to it. Once there is a connection, then people are able to communicate from various places all over the world or close to home with others they may have never come in contact with if not for social networking.
In my personal opinion, the most common users of social networks are Generations X through Z. It is fairly easy to find many young people connected to some type of network. However, social networking is becoming more and more common. So, it is not strange to find Baby Boomers and other generations starting to join a network.
When it comes to access to social networks, the opportunities are endless. You can find a network for dating, communicating with friends and family, advertising and promoting your business, creating personal journals for others to follow, discussing educational ideas for our 21st Century Learners, "pinning" pictures, and many more! Some of the most popular social networks are: Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, My Life, Delicious, and many others. I personally use Facebook (and now the addition of Pinterest), Delicious, Linked In, Wikispace, and, of course, this blog.
Due to my use of these social networks, I've been able to connect with old friends, stay in contact with long distance family members, save useful websites, save my progress on my continuing education, communicate with other educators about iPad apps and other educational resources, and, recently, found some great recipes!
Although social networks do provide benefits, there is always the risk of providing personal information online. There are quite a few people out there that are very knowledgeable about networks and have learned ways to find out information with just a few clicks of mouse. Because of these knowledgeable people, I take a few extra precautions. For instance, I keep my Facebook private with minimal information exposed until I accept you as a "friend." Due to some of these type of precautions, I have experienced very little negative impact.
As a side note, as a teacher that plans to use social networking with students in the near future, it is vital for me to protect my students as well. So, I will NOT allow my students to put personal information, pictures will only be allowed with parental permission, and I will continue to teach students about cyberbullying, precautions to social networking, and digital citizenship.