Teens and social media: Pew report


Last week Pew Internet & American Life released a report on teens and social media. Some findings surprised me; others did not. To begin the report indicates that…

Fully 95% of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites.

I guess I’m a little surprised that 5 percent of those surveyed weren’t online. The teen and preteen in my house would have a lot of extra time on their hands if they were in that demographic. The report doesn’t focus on who is and isn’t online as much as what’s happening online.

The not so surprising news is that sometimes kids are mean online – and sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they ignore the meanness, sometimes they step up and defend each other. Here are the numbers:

  • 88 percent of social media using teens have seen people been mean online
  • 15 percent felt that they had been the target of online cruelty.
  • The most popular reaction to witnessing online meanness was to ignore the situation (95 percent)
  • 84 percent reported having seen people come to the defense of the targets of meanness
  • 80 percent that they themselves have defended folks online.
  • 78 percent report at least one good outcome from using social media
  • 41 percent report at least one negative outcome
  • 44 percent of the teen social media users lie about their age to access social media sites. (Which would indicate to me that 44 percent were under 13, since that’s the stated required age for Facebook users.)

Facebook was overwhelming the most popular social media network. Twitter was one of the fastest growing. Google Plus was too new to really rank, though Google Buzz (now defunct or near defunct) was not popular.

I scan my kids’ social media use daily – so I wasn’t so surprised by most what I found. I was a little surprised at where kids were learning about how to use social media – but I was surprised in a good way. Here is what Pew reports…

For general advice and influence, parents are still the top source for teen internet and cell phone users. However, teens receive advice from a wide array of sources.

  • 86% of online and cell phone-using teens say they have received general advice about how to use the internet responsibly and safely from their parents.
  • 70% of online and cell-using teens say they have gotten advice about internet safety from teachers or another adult at school.
  • 45% have received advice from friends or classmates, 45% have received general advice from an older relative, and 46% have received internet safety advice from a brother, sister, or cousin.
  • 58% of teen internet and cell phone users say their parents have been the biggest influence on what they think is appropriate or inappropriate when using the internet or a cell phone.
  • 18% of teens say their friends have been their biggest influence on appropriate internet or cell phone behavior.
  • 18% say “no one” has influenced them.

I’m surprised because so many parents tell me they are lost when it comes to many of the details – but I think parents get the big picture. I was just having a conversation about kids and social media with colleagues. First – kids don’t always understand the details as well as we think. Second – I think they very often miss that big picture – like a stranger is a stranger. So in the end I think the Pew Report demonstrates that kids are still kids and parents still have a role to play in helping them become responsible adults (online).

On a personal note – it’s super helpful to know the details of social media with young teens. My new best threat is tagging my preteen in Facebook posts in embarrassing places, which would be anywhere with me these days. Stops her from complaining instantly.