Kids have been known to talk to strangers in parks for decades.
Now a new study shows that some of them are actually listening, even when they are not.
NPR’s Rachel Martin reports from Chicago.
Reporter: One year ago, I took a class on social media.
We were working on a project, and we had some very cool videos.
A few of us were trying to learn how to be a good social media influencer.
But a lot of us weren’t.
One of the guys in the class said, You know what?
I’m gonna go ahead and do it.
He just went ahead and created an account and started posting videos from his friends and family.
It was a fun time, and he shared the videos with his friends.
And he did a great job.
And a lot more of his friends started doing the same thing.
But we were all very skeptical.
Why was this kid doing this?
So we went to the local library, and the first thing they asked us was, Why are you doing this.
They said, Well, we’re all curious about how it works, and it’s not really a problem.
But there was a lot less skepticism in the rest of the room.
So we decided to do another project.
We talked to our fellow classmates and asked, What if we were able to talk directly to people on the street?
And we were so excited that we decided we wanted to do it for real.
So, we went up to a local park, we had a meeting, and I asked the kids in the group, What do you want to do for Halloween?
And one of the kids, a very shy kid, just said, Oh, I want to make a zombie.
“The answer came back, I don’t know, I’m just gonna pretend.
He was really shy and didn’t really want to talk, but he was super cool about it.
The next time I talked to the same kid, he was a little more open and more confident.
He said, I think I want something more serious.
And that’s when I said, OK, you know what, I’ll do it!
And he was like, Oh my god.
And I was like oh my god, you just made me laugh.
And then the next time, he told me he had an idea.
He wanted to write a book about the first time he went to a zombie park.
And the next thing I know, we were just sitting around.
The first time I went, I was so excited and scared and nervous.
I just kind of thought, What the hell?
And then it dawned on me, I just want to get the experience of going there.
So that was it.
I wanted to go, not just to be there, but to be able to be in there.
Reporter/on camera interviewer: Now that we’ve talked about this topic, what’s next for the research?
What are the next steps?
There are two main things to do: What we’re calling “research projects” are designed to figure out what these social influencers are actually doing, what kind of impact they’re having, and what kind are they learning about kids, and their social skills.
And they are funded by a variety of different sources.
Some of them come from companies like Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms.
Some come from nonprofits, like the Autism Speaks Foundation, or from the National Science Foundation, which is a great example of what’s happening in our world.
So the research projects are designed with the goal of finding out how these people are communicating with kids and how they are using the social media platforms and social media tools to influence kids and to educate kids.
These are really cool projects that we’re really excited about.
They are very innovative.
What are some of the things that we think might be interesting to look at?
There is a whole bunch of different kinds of social media stuff, all of which we’re looking at in the next year, like whether it’s a more traditional way of sharing videos, or whether it is something we can do with kids that is more personalized, or how do we get more kids to participate in these kinds of things.
We also want to learn about the types of kids who are doing these kinds for fun.
Is there some evidence that these are the kind of kids that might be interested in making videos?
Well, there is, but there is no definitive evidence that they are the ones that actually get involved in making these videos.
And if you look at these kinds, we are talking about some really cool social influencer types.
So there is a lot we can look at in that area.
How do we measure their effectiveness?
What kinds of tools are they using?
What kind of content is they posting?
How are they posting it?
And what’s the effect on their audiences?
We can actually track the types and the impact of those types on our audience, and also on the