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Survey reveals teens’ experiences on social networking sites

Ninety-five percent of all teens ages 12-17 are now online, and 80 percent of online teens are users of social media sites.

As social media use has become pervasive in the lives of American teens, a new study finds that 69 percent of the teenagers who use social networking sites say their peers are mostly kind to one another on such sites. Still, 88 percent say they have witnessed people being mean or cruel to another person on the sites, and 15 percent say they have been the target of mean or cruel behavior themselves.

The findings are detailed in a new report called “Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites: How American teens navigate the new world of ‘digital citizenship,’” from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Adult social network users are less likely to say they witness or experience this type of behavior, but they still report that it is prevalent. In fact, 69 percent of the adults who use social networking sites say they have seen people be mean and cruel to others on those sites.

The study, released Nov. 9, examines teens’ behavior and experiences on social network sites, their privacy and safety practices, and the role of parents in digital safekeeping.

Social media use is widespread among teens. Fully 95 percent of all teens ages 12-17 are now online, and 80 percent of online teens are users of social media sites. Teens of all ages and backgrounds are witnessing these mean behaviors online and are reacting in a variety of ways:

  • Ninety percent of teen social media users say they have ignored the mean behavior they have witnessed on a social network site.
  • Eighty percent say they have personally defended a victim of meanness and cruelty.
  • Seventy-nine percent say they have told someone to stop their mean behavior on a social network site.
  • Twenty-one percent say they have personally joined in on the harassment of others on a social network site.
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