Social media use has become so pervasive in the lives of teens that having a presence on a social network site is almost synonymous with being online. Fully 95% of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites. Many log on daily to their social network pages and these have become spaces where much of the social activity of teen life is echoed and amplified—in both good and bad ways.
We focused our attention in this research on social network sites because we wanted to understand the types of experiences teens are having there and how they are addressing negative behavior when they see it or experience it. As they navigate challenging social interactions online, who is influencing their sense of what it means to be a good or bad “digital citizen”? How often do they intervene to stand up for others? How often do they join in the mean behavior?
In our survey, we follow teens’ experiences of online cruelty – either personally felt or observed – from incident to resolution. We asked them about how they reacted to the experience and how they saw others react. We asked them about whether they have received and where they sought advice – both general advice about online safety and responsibility and specific advice on how to handle a witnessed experience of online cruelty on a social network site.