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Most teens have seen bad behavior on social media sites:survey

November 8, 2011 |  9:01 pm

Teens report kindness and cruelty on social network websites in a new study by Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project
The majority of teenagers who use social networking websites say their peers are mostly kind to one another online, but 88% still say they've witnessed people being mean and cruel on such sites, according to a new study. Fifteen percent say they've been the target of bad behavior on social media sites.

The findings come from a report called "Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites: How American teens navigate the new world of 'digital citizenship,'" which is based on seven focus groups with teens and a survey of 799 youths 12 to 17 and their parents.

The study, conducted by Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, found that social media use is widespread among teens, with 95% of 12- to 17-year-olds in the survey saying they use the Internet. Of those, 80% said they use social media sites.

When it comes to bad conduct online, 80% of teen social media users in the survey said they have defended a victim of meanness and cruelty and 79% said they have told someone to stop mean behavior on a social network site. However, 21% said they have joined in on the harassment.

"Social networking sites have created new spaces for teens to interact, and they witness a mixture of altruism and cruelty," said Amanda Lenhart, the study's lead author. "For most teens, these are exciting and rewarding spaces. But the majority have also seen a darker side."

Teens in the survey said they received advice about online safety from a variety of people. Parents were the top source, with 86% saying they have received advice from their parents about how to use the Internet safely and responsibly, and 70% said they have received advice from a teacher or other adult at school.

Teens in the survey reported that parents were also the biggest influence on shaping what they think is appropriate or inappropriate behavior when going online or using a cellphone. At the same time, 18% saidthat no one has influenced them about their attitudes toward online behavior.

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-- Andrea Chang

Photo: High school students try out iPads in Watsonville, Calif., last year. Credit: Robinson Kuntz / Santa Cruz Sentinel

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