Wobegon Online?

By Claire • NewsCred Blog • Feb 13, 2012

In his long-running radio show A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor often talks about Lake Wobegon: a fictional American town where "the women are strong, the men are good looking and the children are above average."

According to a report published Feb. 9 by the Pew Research Center, for adults social networking sites aren't far from that ideal. According to the report, which polled 2,260 people over the age of 18 between July 25 and Aug. 26, 2011, 85 percent of adults report that their experiences using social networking sites is mostly kind. Sixty-one percent reported having experiences that made them "feel closer" to a person. Seventy-five percent said they saw "acts of generosity" sometimes or frequently. Just 26 percent said they had a bad experience.

These findings come as a departure from similar study of teenagers, published Nov. 9. Whereas in the fictional Lake Wobegon, children spend their time out-of-doors. Today, 80 percent of Americans aged 12-19 use social media sites. For them, the sites are a more contentious place. Twenty-five percent of teens have had a face-to-face argument because of something posted on a social networking site, compared to 12 percent of adults.

Adults, says PEW, tend to ignore mean or aggressive behavior online. For teens, this is less true. Though 95 percent of young people receive guidance about online behavior and how to deal with challenging situations online from their parents, just 51 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys seek advice from adults when problems actually arise.

This lack of communication was evident this week when Tommy Jordan, a North Carolina father, put several .45 rounds through his daughter's laptop because of something she posted to her Facebook wall. The event, which Jordan captured on video and posted to his Facebook wall Feb. 8, has been liked by 13,386 people and shared by 6,130.

Whether Jordan's response was warranted or wanting, the video, filmed in the style of a MTV confessional, is a telling example of the present moment. Whereas once family stories were broadcast over public radio airwaves, today they are broadcast via YouTube in brilliant high-def.

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