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The new Pew on social networking: Regarding teens and kindness and cruelty

Flickr 5531939787 The new Pew on social networking: Regarding teens and kindness and crueltyA report released this week from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, in partnership with the Family Online Safety Institute, with the support of Cable in the Classroom, explores Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites.

Based on seven focus groups with teens and a nationally representative survey of nearly 800 teens and parents, the report reveals what many of us who work closely with teens likely know/suspect, the impact of social networking is a mixed bag.  It can be positive, productive, joyful, and mostly kind.  It (and life offline, as well) can also lead to drama and cruelty.

Lead author Amanda Lenhart shares:

Social networking sites have created new spaces for teens to interact and they witness a mixture of altruism and cruelty on those sites. For most teens, these are exciting and rewarding spaces. But the majority have also seen a darker side. And for a subset of teens, the world of social media isn’t a pretty place because it presents a climate of drama and mean behavior.

The introduction notes that 95% of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites and although 69% of teens who use social networking sites say that their peers are mostly kind to each other, 88%  say they have witnessed people being mean and cruel to others, and 15% report they themselves have been the target of such behavior.

So, how do they respond?  There’s good and bad news:

  • 90% of teen social media users say they have ignored the mean behavior they have witnessed on a social network site.
  • 80% say they have personally defended a victim of meanness and cruelty.
  • 79% say they have told someone to stop their mean behavior on a social network site.
  • However, 21% of social media-using teens say they have personally joined in on the harassment of others on a social network site.

The study’s major findings:

  • 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.
  • Teens rely most heavily on parents and peers for advice about online behavior and coping with challenging experiences.
  • Most of these exchanges happening on social network sites are not taking place in full public view, as the majority of teens take various steps to manage their privacy online.
  • Most parents of teens talk with their child or use non-technical measures to manage their teens’ online experiences.

You will want to share this balanced report with your admins, teachers, and parent groups.  Better yet, let’s use it to open up some new conversations with the kids.

acrobat big The new Pew on social networking: Regarding teens and kindness and cruelty Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites (PDF)
acrobat big The new Pew on social networking: Regarding teens and kindness and cruelty Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites, Executive Summary (PDF)
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Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is the teacher-librarian at Springfield Township High School, a technology writer, and a blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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