The armchair investigator: Social Media and Teens

The Pew Internet & American Life Project report, Teens and Social Media, supports the continuing importance of the Internet for due diligence, background, employment and skip tracing investigations, as well as, reputation research and even surveillance for legal and insurance matters.

Some 93% of teens use the internet, and more of them than ever are treating it as a venue for social interaction – a place where they can share creations, tell stories, and interact with others.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that 64% of online teens ages 12-17 have participated in one or more among a wide range of content-creating activities on the internet, up from 57% of online teens in a similar survey at the end of 2004.

39% of online teens share their own artistic creations online, such as artwork, photos, stories, or videos, up from 33% in 2004.

33% create or work on webpages or blogs for others, including those for groups they belong to, friends, or school assignments, basically unchanged from 2004 (32%).

28% have created their own online journal or blog, up from 19% in 2004.

27% maintain their own personal webpage, up from 22% in 2004.

In short, most teens are using the Internet and over a quarter of them have Web pages or blogs and even more post photos. Also, commentary by teens can be mined for information on their parents – who may be jurors, experts, plaintiffs, defendants, claimants or witnesses – for background, employment, insurance or locate investigations.

Previously, I wrote about the increasing reliance by employers on Internet research.

In my conference presentations, I give examples of my Internet research that uncovered photographs, identified current employment and personal and business involvements of subjects. At the Annual Meeting of the California Bar, Carole Levitt and I presented, Social Networking Sites: The Newest Investigative Tool On The Internet. Carole cited a University of Wisconsin analysis that found teens limit the personal identifiers they post online. It’s essential in constructing your search queries to know that “40 percent of the profiles included the youth’s first name, and about 9 percent included their full name.” To be effective, the researcher should combine first name with other personal identifiers commonly used at that particular social networking site.

UPDATE: 2013 Report

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