The Center for Public Opinion at Universidad del Valle de Mexico, together with UVM’s schools of Psychology and Health Sciences, completed a study to understand the current use of social networks, and the implications these social networks have on the lives of students, teachers and Internet users in general. The report is based on an online survey, which received a total of 2,844 responses (763 from Brazil and the rest from Mexico). The results were complemented with five focus groups with university students in the Federal District, State of Mexico and Guadalajara and two virtual forums with teachers from UVM and other universities from throughout the nation.
Internet users are predominantly young
Three-quarters of Internet users are under 35. The vast majority of respondents to the survey were between 19 and 25 years old and the survey had a slightly higher proportion of women (53%) than men (46%). Coincidentally, based on the age of the respondents, the vast majority are single and pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies.
Traditional media’s lack of credibility has led respondents to the Internet
Television and radio stations have lost credibility among youth. The manipulation of information and "lack of opportunity" to influence what is covered, are the leading factors that young people cited as the reasons they turn away from traditional media. For respondents, the Internet offers variety, opportunity, versatility and more reliable information. Regarding access, 77% of internet users connect to the Internet once a day or more and 68% connect to social networks. Just over half are logged in for at least two hours a day. Although mobile devices are gaining ground, computers are still the primary mechanism students use to connect to the Internet from home, the office or school. Half of respondents are connected as they work or do other activities and the other half says they dedicate specific times to surf the Internet.
Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are the most known. Facebook the most used.
There is a high level of knowledge regarding social networks. Virtually all survey participants know Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Linkedin, Flickr and Tumblr are social networks used more frequently in Brazil. Facebook was by far the most used social network on the Internet, followed by Twitter in Brazil and Mexico and by Google in Mexico (almost no respondents from Brazil use Google).
Social networks are beginning to shape new attitudes and behaviors, which will impact education.
Social networks have begun to replace interpersonal relationships and direct face to face communication. Users see that they can create their ideal personality through them. Even though it is still not considered a good way to make new friends, there is increasing proclivity to do so. They explicitly recognize the risks, but their behavior is not consistent with that perception. "Yes I feel there are risks, despite the fact that I connect every day ..." was a common response in the surveys
Teachers recognize that it is a new context, a new reality and must be integrated into teaching, but not everyone knows how. They also don’t feel they are familiar enough with the advantages and disadvantages. What they all have clear is that it is essential to regulate, facilitate and moderate it, establishing clear criteria to facilitate their use and prevent its abuse.
Social networks are here and here to stay. They have begun to impact behavior and conduct. They represent a major challenge for teachers, for students, for businesses and institutions and for the general population. Today's children are born with them and probably cannot conceive of a world without them. Youth are spending a preponderant part of their lives plugged into these sites. The rewards users obtain through social networks are very clear, but the challenge remains in how to best integrate them into everyday life.
More results available at www.opinionpublicauvm.mx
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This article was originally written in Spanish and has been translated into English to be shared on the Laureate International Universities website.