Despite increased instances of cyber bullying making their way across social networking sites, a new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that most teens view these sites as “mostly kind” spaces.

Although 88 percent of the teens who were surveyed admitted having witnessed mean or cruel behavior on social networking sites, more than half — 69 percent — reported that their peers are mostly kind to one another on such sites; 15 percent said that they have been the target of mean or cruel behavior.

Among the study’s other findings:

90% of teen social media users say they have ignored the mean behavior they have witnessed on a social network site.

  • 80% say they have personally defended a victim of meanness and cruelty.
  • 79% say they have told someone to stop their mean behavior on a social network site.
  • However, 21% of social media-using teens say they have personally joined in on the harassment of others on a social network site.
  • 12% of all teens report being bullied in person in the last 12 months
  • 9% of all teens say they were bullied by text message in the last 12 months
  • 8% say they have experienced some type of online bullying – such as through email, a social network site or instant messaging
  • 7% of teens say they’ve been bullied by voice calls over the phone.
  • 25% of social media-using teens had an experience on a social network site that resulted in a face-to-face argument or confrontation with someone.
  • 22% had an experience that ended their friendship with someone.
  • 13% had an experience that caused a problem with their parents.
  • 13% felt nervous about going to school the next day because of an experience on a social network site.
  • 8% got into a physical fight with someone else because of something that happened on a social network site.
  • 6% got in trouble at school because of an experience on a social network site.

“Social networking sites have created new spaces for teens to interact and they witness a mixture of altruism and cruelty on those sites,” said lead author Amanda Lenhart. “For most teens, these are exciting and rewarding spaces. But the majority have also seen a darker side. And for a subset of teens, the world of social media isn’t a pretty place because it presents a climate of drama and mean behavior.”

Source: Pew Research Center

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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