Chapter 2
Beyond the Classroom Walls: A Review of the
Evidence on Social
Networking Sites and Youth
Anton van Hamel and Rocci Luppicini
INTRODUCTION
In the public imagination, social networking sites (SNS) have been branded as a
source of problems ranging from teenaged narcissism to replacing face time with close
friends to abduction by sexual predators. Yet despite the impulse on part of parents,
educators and policymakers to curb these risks, there is comparatively little empirical
research on how SNS is incorporated into the everyday lives of those 25 and under,
and the early findings are far from frightening. This research review compiles the ex-
tant, evidence-based literature on SNS from the USA and abroad to summarize what
is known about SNS and youth and point out gaps in the research base. The research
is discussed in terms of education in an increasingly digital world and the challenges
and opportunities this poses for educators.
T
he Challenge of Education in a Digital World
The
most popular SNS frequented by youth have been designed with a mostly rec-
reational use in mind. Nonetheless, the technology is relevant to educators. First and
foremost, SNS use appears to leap upwards for certain age groups defined around
entry into high-school and university (Lenhart, 2007). Secondly, even though the main
use for SNS among students is for leisure and socializing, there are trends which sug-
gest the technology may become an important tool in adults’ professional lives. This
review is meant to give an overview of what is currently known about youth and SNS
in order to dispel myths and fears so that educators can begin innovating ways to de-
ploy the technology productively.
Youth and S
NS
Although the stages of adolesce
nce and emerging adulthood are periods of intense
psychological growth and development, they are distinguished from early childhood
development by their lack of linearity and their sensitivity to structuration (Coté, 2009;
Kuhn, 2009; Smetana & Villalobos, 2009). While biology determines much of the
intellectual growth of young children across cultures, by the time they reach ado-
lescence, pathways of development diverge. In contrast to theories of universal de-
velopment during adolescence proposed by Piaget, Erikson, and Kohlburg, empirical
research has failed to document a single, predictable trajectory for development during
this period. Indeed, many adults never achieve certain milestones like full formal oper-
ational thinking or complete identity achievement (Coté, 2009; Kuhn, 2009), yet they

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