Most Teens Find Kindness on Social Networks

Reading about cyberbullying and oversharing, social networks and kids can appear to be nothing but trouble. But a recent study found 69% of teens on social media think kids are mostly kind to each other on these sites.  The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project asked 799 teens between the ages 12-17 and their parents about social networks.  The report, “Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Networks” found that most teens experience positive outcomes online and when dealing with negative situations the majority of teens consulted their parents.

While the media portrays this generation as a group of oversharers, this report found teens care about privacy.  Most of them had changed their privacy settings to a more restrictive “only friends” option.  They were also conscious of their digital profile. Teens, especially older teens, reported not posting something for fear of what it may look like to a college or employer. 55% of all online teens said they decided not to post content that might reflect poorly on them in the future.

While they do feel positive about social networks, teens reported observing online meanness. Only 15 % of teens experienced online meanness directed at them, but 88% had witnessed other kids being mean online. Two-thirds reported other kids contributing to the meanness and 21% had joined in the harassment.  The majority of teens responded to online harassment by simply ignoring the post.

Although kids care about privacy, they are still sharing passwords. 34 % of teens share their social network passwords with friends.  This percentage rises to 47% among girls between the ages of 14 and 17.  One of the reasons, kids share passwords is to show and build trust between friends. Unfortunately when a friendship ends, kids may betray this trust by “messing” with social network profiles.

Younger teen girls (12-13)  are also witnessing more online meanness compared to older teens and boys.  33% of young girls believe that people their age are mostly unkind to one another on social network sites. These girls are also more likely than older teens to have experienced in-person bullying in the last year (17% vs. 10%).   Bullying for this group more often extended online as well with teen girls being bullied by text messaging, online and by phone over twice as much as boys.

Thankfully, when kids did have problems or questions about social networks, they talked with their parents.  When asked who (or what) was the biggest influence on what they think is appropriate or inappropriate behavior on a cell phone or online, the majority of teens (58%) said their parents were the greatest influence.  The more parents themselves were online or on social media, the more kids saw them as a resource. Kids are clearly looking to parents for guidance about online behavior and social networks.  And according to this report, the advice is not falling on deaf ears.