If the results of a recent telephone survey are to be taken at face value - a reasonably big if, in my opinion - roughly half of American adults believe that Facebook, Twitter and their ilk are harmful to the social development of today's young people.
The survey of 1,200 registered voters by Poll Position, conducted Nov. 13 via telephone using Interactive Voice Response technology, asked the loaded question: "Do you think that social media are helpful or harmful to the social development of today's youth?"
Also read: Allow social networking at work?
The results: Fifty-three percent answered "harmful," 20% said "helpful," 17% said it is "not making a difference," and 10% offered no opinion.
You say you've never heard of Poll Position? Neither had I, so I'm inclined to be wary here, but the results are eye-catching if for no other reason but they remain remarkably consistent across age groups - even 46.5% of those 18 to 29 said they consider social media harmful. In fact, the general consensus only diverges significantly when accounted for by the respondent's political party affiliation, as does everything these days; more Republicans (65%) see harm from social media than do Democrats (40%).
Of course, the question itself strikes me as questionable. You might as well ask: "Have you heard and read more scary stories or more positive stories about social media?"
Poll Position makes no bones about the fact that it is in the business of asking provocative questions. Relaunched recently by former CNN news executive Eason Jordan, the site takes what it contends are scientifically valid polls and offers registered users an opportunity to answer the same questions in non-scientific online surveys. The side-by-side presentation offers at least the potential of interest.
So just out of curiosity, I registered at Poll Position in order to vote in and see the results of the online survey asking about social media. The results were even more stark, as fully 60% (of an unspecified number of respondents) indicated they believe social media is a detriment to childhood social development.
For the record, I don't believe social media is harming the youth of America.
But that's easy for me to say, because my kids are still too young for Facebook.
Speaking of young people
A recent item here about the FBI allegedly using "FBI Van 1" as a Wi-FI SSID (almost certainly a joke) elicited this anecdote from David Henderson, technology coordinator for the Southwest Arkansas Education Cooperative:
"A group of kids from one school district grabbed a laptop and a Wi-Fi finder app and started driving around town. Every open Wi-Fi spot they found, they attempted to use the default username/password from a list of known logins for various AP makers. Once logged in, they changed the SSID of any box they could access to a 3-letter acronym. Before the day was over, they had managed to create a city-wide Wi-Fi network based on the acronym. You could drive almost anywhere and never lose your connection as (your laptop) was just handed off from AP to AP. It was great fun. Of course, people caught on and changed their SSIDs and added security, which was kind of the point."
I'm guessing it was more the fun than the lesson, but that's OK.
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