Survey reveals teens’ experiences on social networking sites

“Social networking sites have created new spaces for teens to interact, and they witness a mixture of altruism and cruelty on those sites,” said Amanda Lenhart, lead author of the report. “For most teens, these are exciting and rewarding spaces. But the majority have also seen a darker side. And for a subset of teens, the world of social media isn’t a pretty space, because it presents a climate of drama and mean behavior.”

In addition to probing the behaviors that teens witness or experience on social network sites, the study also examines instances of bullying that happen online and offline. Among teens, 19 percent report having experienced bullying anywhere—in person, by text message, by phone call, or online—in the last 12 months.

Some statistics include:

  • Twelve percent of all teens report being bullied in person in the last 12 months.
  • Nine percent of all teens say they were bullied by text message in the last 12 months.
  • Eight percent say they have experienced some type of online bullying—such as through eMail, a social network site, or instant messaging.
  • Seven percent of teens say they’ve been bullied by voice calls over the phone.

Teens’ actions and interaction within these social networks produce positive and negative outcomes. A majority of teens who use social network sites (78 percent) reported a positive outcome from their social media interactions, such as feeling good about themselves or deepening a friendship with another person.

At the same time, some 41 percent of social media-using teens reported at least one negative outcome:

  • Twenty-five percent of social media-using teens had an experience on a social network site that resulted in a face-to-face argument or confrontation with someone.
  • Twenty-two percent had an experience that ended their friendship with someone.
  • Thirteen percent had an experience that caused a problem with their parents.
  • Thirteen percent felt nervous about going to school the next day because of an experience on a social network site.
  • Eight percent got into a physical fight with someone else because of something that happened on a social network site.
  • Six percent got in trouble at school because of an experience on a social network site.

Teens say they receive advice about online safety from a wide variety of people in their lives. Parents are the top source, with 86 percent of teens saying they have received advice from their parents about how to use the internet safely and responsibly. Seventy percent have received advice from a teacher or other adult at school.

Teens report that their parents are the biggest influence on shaping what they think is appropriate or inappropriate behavior when going online or using a cell phone. At the same time, 18 percent of teens say that “no one” has influenced them about their attitudes toward online behavior.

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