As social media use has become pervasive in the lives of American teens, there have been increasing reports of bullying and other negative implications. In an effort to navigate many conflicting reports on online experiences, the goal of a new report by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is to explore the concept of digital citizenship and how that concept might be formulated into a doable and coherent survey.
The report, “Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites”, aims to understand the types of experiences teens are having on social networking sites and how they are addressing negative behavior when they see it or experience it.
“Social media use has become so pervasive in the lives of American teens that having a presence on a social network site is almost synonymous with being online,” the study says. “Fully 95% of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites.”
Fielded April 19-July 14, 2011, the study was administered by cell phone and landline in English and Spanish, to 799 teens ages 12-17 and a parent or guardian. A few of its key findings include:
- The majority of social media-using teens say their peers are mostly kind to one another on social network sites. Their views are less positive than those of social media-using adults.
- 88% of social media-using teens have witnessed other people be mean or cruel on social network sites.
- 15% of social media-using teens say they have been the target of online meanness.
- More teens report positive personal outcomes than negative ones from interactions on social network sites: 78% report at least one good outcome and 41% report at least one negative outcome.
- 19% of teens have been bullied in the past year in some form either in person, online, by text, or by phone
- A majority of teens say their own reaction has been to ignore mean behavior when they see it on social media.
- 2/3rds of teens who have witnessed online cruelty have also witnessed others joining in—and 21% say they have also joined in the harassment.
- 55% of all online teens say they have decided not to post content that might reflect poorly on them in the future.
- A notable number of teens also engage in online practices that may have the potential to compromise their safety online.
- 39% of all parents of teens have connected to their child on a social network site, but that does not necessarily prevent online trouble for the teen.
Read the full report to see more detailed findings and analysis of these topics: teens and social networks, privacy and safety issues, parents and online social spaces, social media and digital citizenship, and the role of parents in digital safekeeping and advice-giving.