How Do Tweens Seek Information?

Have you ever wondered if your tweens have a method for seeking information or if they make random, impulse decisions, and more or less chase squirrels?

I spent an entire semester last year researching information seeking behavior, and in particular, tween information seeking behavior. When I use the phrase "information needs" or "information seeking behavior," I am referring to the search a tween undergoes to access information: a funny cat video on YouTube, a book about the Civil War for a school project, a favorite fictional book, information on how to build a treehouse, or any other myriad of information queries you could imagine! Tweens are as varied in personality and habits as adults. Therefore, what I share with you today cannot necessarily be applied to every single tween; however, I hope it gives you insight into some general observations about the approach this age group takes when attempting to satisfy information needs.

1. Tweens face a plethora of barriers when seeking information

Some of these include: cognitive development, privacy concerns, knowledge of search strategies, and level of discernment. All these barriers are age related and can only be improved by growth and experience. This is why: 

2. Tweens almost always have a more satisfying information seeking experience if they seek the information from or in conjunction with another person.


3. More often than not, tweens seek information from one another.

(No chance of that going wrong, right?)

4. Socialization often spawns information seeking

Two boys decide to see how many marshmallows they can fit in their mouth at one time, which leads them to discover the world's record for number of marshmallows stuffed into someone's mouth...


5. The presence of an adult authority figure in an information search with a tween has been found to have positive correlations with increased self-esteem.

So how can we apply this in our work with tweens? Reach out to your tweens and find out what kind of information they are seeking. Remember, tweens will often seek each other out first, before coming to an adult authority figure for help; however, their self-esteem will likely be higher if you are there helping them! When tweens do come to you for help, don't just find the answer, teach the process and let the tweens be involved! Explain your rationale for why you search a certain way and trust specific resources, while taking others with a grain of salt. Most importantly, treat your tweens with the same dignity and respect you would to any adult.

We would love to hear from you! What behaviors have you observed in your tweens as they seek the information they crave?


To Learn More, Check Out Any of These Fabulous Resources:

Anderson, T. D. (2013). Tweens and their in-betweens: giving voice to young people when exploring emerging information practices associated with smart devices. Information Research, 18(1), 1-11.
Bowler, L. (2010). Talk as a metacognitive strategy during the information search process of adolescents. Information Research, 15(4), 13.
Burley, D. (2010). Penguin Life: A Case Study of One Tween's Experiences inside Club Penguin. Journal Of Virtual Worlds Research, 3(2), 3-13.
Crow, S. R. (2015). The Information-Seeking Behavior of Intrinsically Motivated Elementary School Children of a Collectivist Culture. School Library Research, 181-31.
Dresang, E. T. (2005). The information-seeking behavior of youth in the digital environment. Library Trends, 54(2), 178-196.
Fields, D., & Kafai, Y. (2009). A connective ethnography of peer knowledge sharing and diffusion in a tween virtual world. International Journal Of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(1), 47-68. doi:10.1007/s11412-008-9057-1
Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retrieved from
Fitneva, S. A., Lam, N. L., & Dunfield, K. A. (2013). The development of children's information gathering: To look or to ask?. Developmental Psychology, 49(3), 533-542. doi:10.1037/a0031326
Foss, E., Druin, A., Brewer, R., Lo, P., Sanchez, L., Golub, E., & Hutchinson, H. (2012). Children's search roles at home: Implications for designers, researchers, educators, and parents. Journal Of The American Society For Information Science & Technology, 63(3), 558-573. doi: 10.1002/asi.21700
Gossen, T., & Nürnberger, A. (2013). Specifics of information retrieval for young users: A survey. Information Processing & Management, 49(4), 739-756. doi:10.1016/j.ipm.2012.12.006
Large, A., Nesset, V., & Beheshti, J. (2008). Children as information seekers: what researchers tell us. New Review Of Children's Literature & Librarianship, 14(2), 121-140. doi: 10.1080/13614540902812631
Liu, R., Shen, C., Xu, L., & Gao, Q. (2013). Children's internet information seeking, life satisfaction, and loneliness: The mediating and moderating role of self-esteem. Computers & Education, 6821-28. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.04.019
Lu, Y. (2010). Children's information seeking in coping with daily-life problems: An investigation of fifth- and sixth-grade students. Library & Information Science Research (07408188), 32(1), 77-88. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2009.09.004
Lwin, M. O., Miyazaki, A. D., Stanaland, A. J., & Lee, E. (2012). Online usage motive and information disclosure for preteen children. Young Consumers, 13(4), 345-356. doi:10.1108/17473611211282590
Madden, A. D., Ford, N. J., & Miller, D. (2006). Children's use of the internet for information-seeking: What strategies do they use, and what factors affect their performance?. Journal Of Documentation, 62(6), 744-761.
Meyers, E. M., Fisher, K. E., & Marcoux, E. (2009).  Making sense of an information world: the everyday-life information behavior of preteens. Library Quarterly, 79(3), 301-341.
Meyers, E. M. (2009). Tip of the iceberg: meaning, identity, and literacy in preteen virtual worlds. Journal Of Education For Library & Information Science, 50(4), 226-236.
Savolainen, R. (2009). Everyday life information seeking. (pp. 1780-1789) Taylor & Francis. doi:doi:10.1081/E-ELIS3-120043920
Shenton, A. K., & Dixon, P. (2003). Youngsters' use of other people as an information-seeking method. Journal Of Librarianship & Information Science, 35(4), 219-233. doi: 10.1177/0961000603035004002
Shenton, A. K., & Dixon, P. (2004). Issues arising from youngsters' information-seeking behavior. Library & Information Science Research (07408188), 26(2), 177-200. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2003.12.003
St. Jean, B. b., Subramaniam, M., Taylor, N. G., Follman, R., Kodama, C., & Casciotti, D. (2015). The influence of positive hypothesis testing on youths' online health-related information seeking. New Library World, 116(3/4), 136-154. doi: 10.1108/NLW-07-2014-0084
Todd, R. J. (2003). Adolescents of the information age: patterns of information seeking and use, and implications for information professionals. School Libraries Worldwide, 9(2), 27-46.

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