October 3, 2022

Most Teens Are On Social Networking Sites; 20 Percent Report Being Bullied


A whopping 95 percent of teens between the ages of 12-17 are now online—and one in five of them say they’ve been bullied in the last year, either in person, online, by text, or by phone, says a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites: How American teens navigate the new world of ‘digital citizenship” reports that 80 percent of online teens are users of social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. And with many of them logging on daily, these sites have in effect become “spaces where much of the social activity of teen life is echoed and amplified—in both good and bad ways,” the study says. Half of the 19 percent of teens who’ve been bullied over the last 12 months say it took on multiple forms: 12 percent say it took place in person; 9 percent say it was via text message; 8 percent say it was online, either through email, a social network site, or instant messaging; and 7 percent say it was through calls over the phone. Girls were much more likely than boys to report being bullied in various ways, except in-person, which happened to boys and girls about equally.

The majority, 95 percent of social networking teens, say they’ve witnessed cruel online behavior, and 84 percent say they’ve seen others standing up for victims.

What about their own behavior? Eighty percent of teens say they’ve defended victims, with 25 percent doing so frequently. Sadly, 67 percent of teens who’ve witnessed online cruelty say they also see others jumping in, with 21 percent of those surveyed admitting that they joined the harassment as well.

Parents and friends play a big role in coping with these online challenges, the report goes on to say. When seeking general advice, 86 percent of online and cell phone-using teens say they turn to their parents for how to use the Internet responsibly and safely. In fact, 58 percent of teens say mom and dad have been the biggest influence on what they think is appropriate or inappropriate when using the Internet or a cell phone.

Teachers and other adults at school come in second, with 70 percent of teens turning to them for online safety advice. Some 45 percent receive advice from friends or classmates; 45 percent say they receive general advice from an older relative, and 46 percent say they get this type of advice from a brother, sister, or cousin.

Nearly all, 92 percent, of those who sought advice on how to deal with online cruelty say the advice they received was mostly good or helpful.

However, a good number of online teens, 44 percent, admit to lying about their age so they can access a website or sign up for an online account—a practice that could potentially compromise their online safety. And 30 percent report sharing one of their passwords with a friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend, with more girls (47 percent) than boys (27 percent) sharing their passwords.

Teens do think about their digital footprint, with some 55 percent saying they’ve decided not to post content that might reflect poorly on them in the future. Older teens between the ages of 14 and 17 are more likely (59 percent) than younger teens (46 percent) between the ages of 12 and 13 to say they’ve reconsidered posting content online after thinking about the possibility of negative consequences. Meanwhile 67 percent of 17-year-olds—who are likely getting ready for college—report withholding content that might damage their reputations.

The study sought to gain a better understanding of what it means to be a good or bad digital citizen by examining the types of experiences teens have on social networking sites and how they’re addressing negative behavior when they see it or experience it.

The report was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in partnership with the Family Online Safety Institute and supported by Cable in the Classroom. The data was culled from a three-part, multi-modal study that included interviews with experts, seven focus groups with middle and high school students, and a nationally representative random-digit-dial telephone survey of 799 teens and parents from April 19 through July 14, 2011.

About Debra Lau Whelan

Debra Lau Whelan is a former senior editor for news and features at SLJ.


  1. This is a very informative article. Thank you.