Online teens who use social network sites are twice as likely as non-users to say they have misrepresented their age online in order to gain access to websites and online services (49% vs. 26%). The teens who admitted to this practice did not specify the sites where they had been dishonest in reporting their age. These misrepresentations could have occurred anywhere online – while creating a social network profile or attempting to access another service intended for older audiences.
However, as we noted in our 2007 report, “Teens, Privacy and Online Social Networks,” teen profile owners commonly provide false information. At that time, more than half said they had posted some fake information to their profiles, and many of the examples we heard about from teens in our focus groups at that time included instances of lying about one’s age.
As noted earlier, our latest survey shows that 45% of 12-year-olds who are online are social network users of sites like Facebook and MySpace, all of which have 13 as a minimum age. Looking specifically at Twitter, 13% of all 12-year old internet users say they use the site, which could include reading or posting material. A Consumer Reports study from this year, which extrapolated estimates based on parent interviews, suggested that 7.5 million American children under the age of 13 were Facebook users, and that approximately 5 million were age 10 and under.
Looking more closely at variations across different services, 49% of all Facebook-using teens say they have falsified their age in order to gain access to an online service, compared with 31% of those who do not use Facebook. And while Twitter users are a much smaller group (n=127 teens in our sample), 61% of them say they have lied about their age to gain access to a website or service somewhere online, compared with 41% of non-users. Again, these figures do not represent an estimate of lying that occurs on those specific sites.
Teens who maintain public profiles on social network sites are far more likely than those who have private profiles to report lying about their age (62% vs. 45%). However, falsifying age information does not vary according to the frequency of a teen’s social network site use. For instance, teen social network users who go on the sites daily (49%) are just as likely as those who use the sites on a weekly basis (50%) to say that they have misrepresented their true age.