Teens and social networks
This week, The Online Mom is in Washington, D.C., where the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) is holding its fifth annual conference and exhibition. This year’s event explores the science and health issues related to children and the Internet, and asks how families can find the right balance in their hyper-connected lives.
To coincide with the conference, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released a new study titled Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites. The study explores the unique issues teens face when using social networking sites, as well as who they turn to receive advice on Internet safety.
The study found that fully 95 percent of all teens aged 12-17 are now online and 80 percent of those online teens are members of social networks. The good news is that most American teens report that people their age are mostly kind to one another when using these social networks.
However, that doesn’t mean that mean behavior doesn’t exist. In fact, 88 percent of social media-using teens have witnessed someone being mean or cruel, with 12 percent saying they witness that cruel behavior “frequently.”
When it comes to experiencing harassment themselves, some 15 percent of teen social media users say they have suffered abuse within the last 12 months. Interestingly, the percentage of teen social media users that have experienced mean or cruel behavior is not that much different from adults (13 percent).
The study also found that there is no statistical difference between boys and girls when it comes to experiencing mean behavior on social networks, a finding that was repeated when the study also looked at differences by race and socio-economic status.
Although a majority of social media-using teens (65 percent) have had at least one experience on a social network that made them feel good about themselves, a significant number have had negative experiences. These include an incident that ended a friendship (22 percent), an incident that caused a problem with their parents (13 percent), and an incident that left them nervous about going to school the next day (13 percent).
Nearly 1 in 5 of all teens (19 percent) report that they have experienced some form of bullying in the last 12 months. Despite the warnings about the increased role technology plays in bullying, face-to-face confrontations remain the most common form of bullying, with 12 percent of all teens reporting at least one incident in the last 12 months. Bullying via text messages (9 percent of all teens) and online bullying (8 percent) are the other most common forms of teen harassment.
When it comes to teens managing their online privacy, the verdict is mixed. While the vast majority of teens (81 percent) say they have taken steps to limit who can see their profile and posts, a significant number (30 percent) admit to having shared their online passwords, leaving them vulnerable to identity theft or impersonation. Password-sharing is particularly prevalent among girls ages 14-17 (47 percent).
In other good news, the vast majority or parents (94 percent) say they have had conversations with their online teens about what should and should not be shared online. An overwhelming majority of parents have also taken steps to monitor their teen’s online activities, including checking web sites they have visited (77 percent), checking what information was available online about their child (66 percent), and installing parental controls (54 percent).