The Pew Internet and American Life Project has published a study on the use of Social Networking sites by Teens. Back at the beginning of the month they had a press release on their findings on Teens and Social Networking Usage. There are some interesting statistics included in these findings. One statistic that is closely tied to the PacRimX Project is the use of Social Networks to make and keep friends:
“91% of all social networking teens say they use the sites to stay in touch with friends they see frequently, while 82% use the sites to stay in touch with friends they rarely see in person.”
While this study specifically polled families and students on Social Networking Sites (MySpace, FaceBook, etc.), there is a comparison to be made with virtual worlds like Second Life. If anything, teens will be drawn in larger numbers to these virtual worlds as they become more accessible and more “social” with their demographic.
I suspect that our project, and others like it, will show that cross cultural and long distance relationships can be formed and maintained in an educational environment using these social virtual world platforms. It is likely a few years off when we will see any significant studies on teen use of virtual worlds.