New research shows online savvy kids

Half of US teens have lied about their age to join a social network
Kerry Butters

November 17, 2011

New research carried out in the US on teen users of social media has shown positive results on how teens deal with challenging behaviour from other users they have online contact with.

The results found that 95% of US youngsters aged between 12-17 years are online, and 80% of those use social media sites, logging on daily.

Social networks have become a place “where much of the social activity of teen life is echoed and amplified – in both good and bad ways”, the research says.

The survey, carried out by Pew Internet, was intended to measure how kids deal with “online cruelty” from “incident to resolution” and who they turned to for advice and help when dealing with the problem.

It was found that most teens thought most people their age tended to be “kind” to others online, however, 20% said that they thought their peers were mostly unkind to each other.

88% of those asked said that they had witnessed others being cruel to others on a social networking site and 12% said that they saw such behaviour frequently. 29% said they sometimes saw it, whilst 47% said they had seen it occasionally.

Just 15% said that they had experienced harassment online within the past 12 months, or at least only 15% admitted that.

The research also found that, of those who had experiencing nasty behaviour from others, there were no differences between gender or socio-economic groups.

25% of teens report that an experience on a social network has resulted in a face-to-face confrontation, whilst 22% say that an altercation online has resulted in the end of a friendship.

13% of teens say that they have had an experience that has resulted in a problem with their parents and 13% have felt nervous about going to school the next day after arguing with someone on a social media site.

Worryingly, 8% say that they have got into a fight because of an online row and 6% have found themselves in trouble at school as a result of something that has happened on Facebook or Twitter.

When it comes to bullying, 19% of teens said that they have been bullied within the last 12 months, half of those said that the harassment has been carried out in multiple ways.

9% have been bullied by text message and 8% online, whilst 7% report that they have been bullied by voice calls.

Girls were much more likely to report problems apart from “in-person bullying” which affects both genders equally.

Kids also reported that other teens tend not to step in when they see people being cruel to others online. However, 84% said that they have seen others defending the victim, although only 27% said they often see this.

A huge 90% of those asked said that they have themselves ignored the situation when they have witnessed online bullying and 35% said they do so frequently.

Two-thirds of teens said they have seen others joining in online harassment and 21% admitted that they have joined in themselves.

A positive result showed that many of the teens questioned would seek advice from parents, although it seems that they also have a “wide array of sources” to turn to in cases of online bullying.

86% said that they had received general safety advice from parents concerning online safety, whilst 70% said they had learnt about internet safety from teachers or school-based adults.

58% said that their parents had been the biggest influence on appropriate online behaviour and 18% said they listened to their friends. A further 18% said that nobody had influenced them at all.

The “vast majority of teens” have profiles that are only visible to friends, an encouraging sign for those who are concerned with kids being befriended by strangers online.

However, 17% said that their profile is publicly visible, raising concerns about privacy and perhaps the need for further education when it comes to online safety.

Unsurprisingly, almost half of the teens asked said that they have lied about their age in order to gain access to a social networking site.

Of the parents questioned, the majority said that they have spoken to their children about staying safe online and 80% of them befriend their child on a social network so that they can monitor their activity.

77% of parents also check their kid’s computer history to see what sites their child has visited and 66% have googled their child to see what information is available and accessible online about them.

The research shows that not only are children more aware of what they should and shouldn’t be doing online, but also that parents are aware of the dangers (in most cases) and do what they can to educate their kids, as well as monitor them to keep them safe.


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