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A New Generation of Web Savvy 'Super-Communicators'

In Victorian times, a favorite admonishment for the corseted schoolmarm to hiss at her class full of ill-mannered, chattering imps was, "Children are to be seen, not heard."

Well, in the decidedly un-Victorian Internet, teenagers are becoming prolific content creators, posting their opinions, artwork and photos across the rapidly expanding array of social content sites, according to a report released today from the Pew Internet Project.

The "Teens and Social Media" study found that 64 percent of Internet users aged 12 to 17 create some form of online content, up from 57 percent in 2004.

The rise of what Pew calls "super-communicators," who have moved beyond antiquated e-mail to new forms of interaction, has been driven in large part by the rise of social networking sites and other Web 2.0 tools that have enabled traditional sites to add a social dimension to their content.

Representing 28 percent of teenagers, super-communicators are those kids who use every technology to communicate that is available to them, including landlines and cell phones, social-networking sites, text messaging, instant messaging and, as a last resort, e-mail.

"Access to social networks and cell phones has opened up new channels for today's teens," Pew Senior Research Specialist and study co-author Mary Madden said in the report.

"New technology increases the overall intensity and frequency of their communication with friends, with e-mail being the one glaringly uncool exception in their eyes."

To many teenagers, social networks have become much more than a self-publishing platform; 41 percent of teens who are on social networks said that they routinely use those sites to send messages to their friends.

When teenagers are posting blogs, videos and other content, they are looking to start a conversation as much as they are trying to promote their own creative output, the Pew study found. When they post photos, people comment on them; when they post a video, a discussion starts.

"For teens, the beauty of the Internet, particularly social-networking Web sites, is that content can be created and easily shared among a network of friends," Pew Senior Research Specialist and study co-author Amands Lenhart said in the report.

"Even more compelling is that people in those social networks can easily comment and give feedback on shared content."

Yet as eager as teens may be to publish parts their lives on the Web, they are also cautious about who's allowed to engage with their personal content.

Of the teens with profiles on social networks, 66 percent limit access to their pages in some way; 77 percent of teens who upload photos said that they restrict access to them at least some of the time. A recent Pew report found that adults are less concerned with protecting their online identities than teenagers.

Pew reported that 28 percent of teenagers online had created their own blog and that almost all of the new teen blogs are created by girls. In 2004, 19 percent of teenagers had created their own blog.

More than one-quarter – 27 percent – of teenaged Internet users manage their own Web site.

Thirty-nine percent of teen Internet users post photos, videos, artwork and other artistic content. Like blogs, online photo sharing skews female, with 54 percent of teen girls reporting that they have posted photos, compared with 40 percent of all teen boys.

Video is a different story. Nineteen percent of the teen boys surveyed said they had posted a video online where it could be seen by someone else, compared with just 10 percent of the girls.