Older adults jump on social media craze

Ask many parents these days and they're probably on Facebook. It appears older adults are getting more social, online that is.

A new Pew Research Institute study finds adults over 50 are signing onto the social media craze, creating Facebook accounts and joining the world of Twitter at a rapid pace.

Between April 2009 and May 2010, there was huge growth in the number of people 50 and older who visited social networking websites. In fact, during that time period, social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled from 22 percent to 42 percent. It grew even more among those 50 to 64, up 88 percent. Use among those ages 65 and older skyrocketed by 100 percent. Compare that to use among the younger crowd, those 18 to 29, which grew by only 13 percent during that time frame.

Read the full report here.

The report finds while older adults still prefer to use email, they're starting to delve into the world of social networking sites. "Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users," explains Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist and author of the report. "Email is still the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families and colleagues, but many older users now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications."

Here are some other interesting findings from the Pew study:

*One in five online adults ages 50-64 say they use social networking sites on a typical day, up from 10 percent one year ago.

*Among adults ages 65 and older, 13 percent log on to social networking sites on a typical day, compared with just 4 percent who did so in 2009.

*At the same time, the use of status update services like Twitter has also grown, particularly among those ages 50-64. One in ten internet users ages 50 and older now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.

In fact, the use of Facebook has become so widespread that some students are now using it in the classroom. Teachers say the social media website helps students reinforce the things they're learning in class and allows parents to keep an eye on what the kids are up to.

One Iowa teacher says she uses Facebook to communicate with parents. "Every day after we've completed something, like a content area -- math, social studies, spelling, that sort of thing -- we'll try and update our Facebook status, try and let our parents know what we did," said Erin Shoening, a 1st grade teacher at Council Bluff's Gunn Elementary School in Iowa.

Some teachers even use Facebook to help teach important English language skills. "They're getting good practice in good sentence writing and checking their spelling and punctuation. And it's really been a positive thing for them," said 4th grade teacher Colleen Griffith. "The biggest thing that we want them to learn from it is that social networking can be a positive tool, because they're going to be using it soon anyway, and we just want them to know that there are really good things that you can do on the social networking sites."

But social networking could spell trouble for some students. A new study in the Daily Mail of Britain involving students shows those who are on Facebook while studying get 20 percent lower grades than those not on Facebook. The study involved U.S. students between the ages of 19 and 54. The poll finds Facebook students had an average GPA of 3.06, while the non-Facebook users had an average GPA of 3.82. A psychologist in the study says the results are not so much about Facebook but multi-tasking.

Do you use Facebook, Twitter or another form of social networking? What do you use it for? Do you know older adults who have jumped on the social media bandwagon? Do you see it dying out any time soon? Where do you see this form of social communication and interaction evolving over time? Leave your comments below.