Teen's interactions using online social networking sites
Dec. 12, 2011
by Mark Ollig

As teenagers, most of us baby boomers did not go on the Internet in order to participate in our social networks.

Of course, back then, there were no Internet social networking sites for us to use.

Instead of the Internet, we would do our socializing at school and sporting events, dance halls, roller skating rinks, bowling alleys, restaurants, local street corners, theaters, or at friend’s houses.

Boomers, feel free to add your favorite locations for socializing to the list.

Some of us, who grew up as teens during the ‘70s, also thought of computers as complicated devices used by the military, NASA, scientists, large corporations, and “nerdy computer hobbyists.”

A new report, “Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites,” was released last month by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in collaboration with the Family Online Safety Institute and Cable in the Classroom.

The report states that today, 95 percent of all teens ages 12 to17 are doing their socializing online, via the Internet.

The Internet is being used by many teens as their main venue for social networking with friends, family, and others.

Which online social networking sites are teens using?

The report says 80 percent of teens actively participating within online social networking sites are mainly using Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.

Of all online social networking sites, Facebook dominates with teens, as 93 percent reported having an account there.

MySpace was being used by 24 percent of teens surveyed.

Twitter came in at 12 percent, while 7 percent said they had an account with Yahoo.

Teens with an account on YouTube were reported by 6 percent, whereas 2 percent had an account on Skype, myYearbook, or Tumblr.

Having only one online social networking account was reported by 59 percent of teens, while 41 percent said they have accounts on multiple social networking sites.

Out of the above mentioned 41 percent, Facebook was named as one of those accounts by 99 percent of the teens surveyed.

Of the teens who said they have only one social networking account, 89 percent disclosed that account was Facebook.

The reason no numbers were given for the new Google Plus social networking site, is because this survey was already being conducted when Google Plus was just being released.

While participating within online social networking sites and chat rooms, teens can sometimes be exposed to difficult and unpleasant experiences.

One of the report’s surveys asked teens where they get advice on how to use the Internet “responsibly and safely.”

Most teens (86 percent) report getting this advice from their parents.

A teacher, or another adult at school providing advice and information about online safety, was reported by 70 percent of teens surveyed.

The media; including, television, radio, newspapers, and magazines, accounted for the information obtained by 54 percent of teens.

Attending a specific school event about Internet online safety was also reported by teens as being a source for information.

The report noted most teens received advice from various sources regarding Internet online safety.

These sources include:

• Parents: 86 percent.

• Teachers: 70 percent.

• Media: 54 percent.

• Sibling or cousin: 46 percent.

• Friend: 45 percent.

• Older relative: 45 percent.

• Youth/church group leader/coach: 40 percent

• Websites: 34 percent

• Librarian: 18 percent

•Someone/something else: 10 percent

The study reports that teens having positive experiences within an online social networking site (strengthened friendships, positive feelings about themselves), are more likely to seek out advice about any negative issues encountered.

Teens who witnessed meanness or negativeness being perpetrated onto someone online (while it was occurring) were asked if they had sought somebody out for advice on what to do. Of the teens responding, 36 percent said they did seek out advice, while 64 percent said they did not.

However, after witnessing or having been personally involved in a bad online experience (harassment, cyber-bullying, or other cruelty), 56 percent of the teens said they did seek out advice, or talked about the negative experience with a friend.

Parents were asked for advice by one-third of the teens responding to the survey, while a smaller number of teens said they would ask a teacher, sibling, or cousin for advice after going through a bad online experience.

Some teens said they would seek counsel from a youth pastor, religious leader, uncle or aunt – or even a website – on how to cope with a negative online experience.

When asked who has been the biggest influence on what a teen thinks is appropriate or inappropriate behavior when online, parents were said to be the number-one influence by 58 percent of teens surveyed, followed by friends at 18 percent, and a brother or sister at 11 percent.

When teens were asked if their parents had talked with them about their online activities, 82 percent said they had.

Of the parents surveyed by Pew, 41 percent reported “friending” their child on an online social networking site (like Facebook).

More attention toward the monitoring of their children’s online website activities was reported by 77 percent of parents surveyed.

The full report, “Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites” can be read at http://tinyurl.com/8xad35p.

A list of 204 online social networking sites can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/k2jhx.

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