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1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Communication

SOCIAL NETWORKS

Information and communications technology (ICT) impacts on the communities in which we live and the way individuals, business, government and civil society interact and develop. As the use and impact of ICT increases, so does the prospect that ICT can influence community development and an individual's social networks (ABS 2004; DCITA 2005).

The Internet may be used to supplement existing social relationships by providing another means of communication. It allows people to keep in touch with established contacts and to disseminate information simultaneously to whole networks. (ABS 2004; DCITA 2005).

ICT may also provide access to new social networks by linking people to groups that are not bounded by geography. Examples include chat rooms, blogs, sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, dating sites and by subscribing to e-mail networks. These social networks have the potential to be particularly important for communities and groups isolated by geography or circumstance (ABS 2004; DCITA 2005).

However, while the Internet facilitates social relationships for many people, for others it may have the potential to diminish social relationships as it can draw them away from face-to-face contact with family and friends, thus reducing social participation and physical interaction. There is also concern that as global communication and involvement increases, interest in local community and politics decreases (DCITA 2005).

There are currently very little data available for rates of participation of Australian adults in social networks. However, this is not the case for children. Of the two million Australian children aged 5-14 years using the Internet at home in 2009, 22% visited or used social networking sites. The proportion was higher for older children aged 12-14 years (48%) compared to 11% for children aged 9-11 years and 3% for children aged 5-8 years (ABS 2009a).

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