Survey reveals teens’ experiences on social networking sites

When teens have a specific problem, such as seeing mean or cruel behavior on a social network site, 36 percent seek advice on how to cope. Those teens who do reach out for advice in these situations tend to gravitate toward their friends and peers (53 percent) and parents (36 percent), and they almost universally say the advice they get is helpful.

Most teens with social networking profiles (62 percent) say that the profile they use most often is set to private, so only their friends can see the content they post. One in five (19 percent) say their profile is partially private, meaning that only friends of friends or a network can see what they post, while 17 percent say their most-used profile is fully public.

Families have adopted a number of approaches to modern digital parenting. Many parents talk with teens about online safety or “friend” their children on social networks, while others have adopted a more technical approach toward monitoring their child’s online behavior:

  • Eighty percent of parents who use social media and who also have a child who uses social media have friended their child on these sites.
  • Seventy-seven percent of parents of internet users have checked which websites their child visits, up from 65 percent of parents who did so in 2006.
  • Sixty-six percent of parents have checked to see what information is available online about their child.
  • Fifty-four percent of parents of internet users report using parental controls or other means of filtering, monitoring, or blocking their child’s online activities.

While many parents have become friends with their children on social media sites, problems still can crop up. One in five teens who have been friended by their parents (18 percent) have experienced a problem with their parents because of something that happened on a social networking site, compared with 5 percent of such teens who are not friends with their parents on a social networking site.

“When a child accepts a parent’s friend request, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the parent has a backstage pass to their child’s social life,” said Mary Madden, co-author of the report. “Teens can present a limited profile to certain friends and are active users of private messaging channels, so the content that parents see may represent just a small fraction of the activity on their teen’s profile.”

The report, which is based on seven focus groups with teens and a nationally representative survey of 799 youth ages 12-17 and their parents, was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in partnership with the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) and with the support of Cable in the Classroom.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at