Martha Lane Fox: Getting it wrong (Edited: but prepared to correct herself)

EDIT: To her credit, Martha has clarified her post and noted she was only asking an open ended question.

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This morning, UK Digital Inclusion Champion, Martha Lane Fox tweeted Pew Internet research from the US on the average age of users for various social networking platforms.  She concluded her tweet with the rather throw-away line: ‘so where r the kids?’

I responded to this tweet, asking if she realised the research she was citing had nothing to do with kids; that it was a survey of adult use of social networks, and she responded as follows: ‘@joannejacobs I know, I just wondered where the kids were! On IM apparently :)’

Oh my God.

Now everyone can get things wrong on occasion, but it is a serious problem when the person who is charged with generating a better future for UK children in use of, and engagement with technologies, cannot even understand the implications of the research she is citing.

Just to clarify, the research she has cited demonstrates absolutely nothing about kids’ use of social networks because the research didn’t survey people under 18 years of age.  The research does NOT show that kids are using instant messaging (by elimination of the social networks) because the research does not show ANYTHING about kids.  It didn’t survey kids.

I pointed her to a very useful analysis of twitter adoption among young people (only one of the several social networks considered in the Pew study) but I’m not sure whether the implications of her tweet were any clearer to her.  If you look at the search results of the people who have retweeted her original tweet, it’s pretty clear that most people think this means kids are not using social networks.  This is categorically inaccurate, and disingenuous of Martha Lane Fox to allow to be recast.

I should also add here that the research she has cited and the response I gave were both for US audiences, and as @lisaharris noted, probably bear little if any resemblance to usage statistics in the UK.

Our government officials and representatives have a responsibility to accuracy and appropriate use of research, and where their opinions can influence citizens and policy makers they MUST understand what they are citing. Martha Lane Fox is irresponsible in not correcting herself on this matter.  I look forward to seeing a correction post haste.



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