Teens’ online world can be mean

By Joe Grimm
Staff writer

In November 2011, a report on teens’ impressions of social media gave a glimpse of what it feels like to be young and online.

“Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites,” was written by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The study asked teens about their online experiences and how they respond when they see mean or unkind behavior. The targets of cyber aggression report that it affects their whole lives, making them anxious about going to school or leading to physical fights. Although some teens pile on and others turn to each other for help, most just don’t get involved when they see it,

The study was based on telephone interviews with a representative sample of 799 U.S. teens aged 12 to 17 years old and their parents.

While most teens report positive online experiences, according to Pew, “some are caught in an online feedback loop of meanness and negative experiences.”

Twenty percent flatly responded that their peers are mostly unkind, and an additional 11% responded “it depends.”

Girls aged 12-13 active on social media were considerably more likely than other teens to say that people seemed to be mostly unkind. Thirty-three percent of them reported this to be their experience.

More than a quarter of all girls at this age said that they felt anxious about going to school the day after a bad online experience. Teens in other group reported anxieties, too.

While bullying continues to happen mostly in person, Pew reported that a substantial number of teens said they are bullied with technology. The study showed that 9 percent of teens aged 12-17 said they had been bullied by text, another 8 percent reported bullying by email, a social network site or instant messaging, and 7 percent said they have been bullied by phone.

A large majority of teens said they see digital bullying, even though they may not be its target. Eighty-eight percent told Pew they have seen peers being mean or cruel to others online. Twelve percent said this happens frequently. The report said teens who were not aware of much online cruelty are the ones who do not use social media very much.

About 55 percent of all teens said that the most frequent response of their peers to mean behavior online is to ignore it. Almost equal numbers — about 20 percent in each camp — said the responses they see to cruel behavior are to either tell someone to stop being mean or to join in the harassment.

The Pew report said teens might ignore mean behavior because it can be difficult to know what the aggression is all about and that some teens might ignore meanness to discourage it. It might also be that teens are intervening in private ways, such as direct messages

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  1. Hello!
    Well I am doing a debate for school and one of the topics is about whether or not teachers should be able to check students cell phones if they are suspected of bullying. I was wondering if anybody had any further statistics of how many people are bullied via text!
    Thank You! 🙂

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