Most American teens who use social media say that in their experience, people their age are mostly kind to one another on social network sites. Overall, 69% of social media-using teens think that peers are mostly kind to each other on social network sites. Another 20% say that peers are mostly unkind, while 11% volunteered that “it depends.” At the same time, in a similar question asked of adults 18 and older, 85% of social media-using adults reported that people are mostly kind to one another on social network sites, while just 5% felt that people are mostly unkind.
88% of social media-using teens have witnessed other people be mean or cruel on social network sites.
Among social media users, 88% of teens have seen someone be mean or cruel to another person on a social network site. Asked, “When you’re on a social networking site, how often do you see people being mean or cruel?,” teens who use social network sites say the following about how frequently they witnessed such behavior:
- 12% say they witnessed cruel behavior “frequently.”
- 29% say they saw meanness on social network sites “sometimes.”
- 47% say they saw such behavior “only once in a while.”
Overall, adults are less likely to say they have seen meanness on social media; 69% of adult social media users say they have seen people being mean and cruel to others on social network sites.
- 7% of adult social media users witness meanness or cruelty “frequently” on the sites.
- 18% say they saw meanness on social network sites “sometimes.”
- 44% say they saw such behavior “only once in a while.”
15% of social media-using teens say they have been the target of online meanness.
Some 15% of teen social media users have experienced such harassment themselves in the past 12 months, while 85% of them have not.
Adult social media users are just as likely to say that someone has been mean or cruel to them on social network sites in the last year. Some 13% of social media-using adults 18 and older report that someone had been mean or cruel to them on a social network in the last 12 months.
Among the social network site-using teens who have experienced cruelty or mean behavior on social network sites, there are no statistically significant differences by age, gender, race, or socio-economic status. In other words, those who experience mean or cruel behavior are equally as likely to be older teens or younger teens; girls or boys; and youth from higher-income families or those from lower-income families.
More teens report positive personal outcomes than negative ones from interactions on social network sites: 78% report at least one good outcome and 41% report at least one negative outcome.
We asked social media-using teens about a series of experiences and interactions they may have had with other people on social network sites. Overall, these teens are much more likely to report positive experiences; 78% say they had at least one positive outcome from their interactions on social network sites.
- 65% of social media-using teens have had an experience on a social network site that made them feel good about themselves.
- 58% of social media-using teens have felt closer to another person because of an experience on a social network site.
Still, a substantial number of teens report specific negative outcomes from experiences on social network sites: 41% of teens who use social media say they have experienced at least one of the negative outcomes we asked about:
- 25% of social media teens have had an experience on a social network site that resulted in a face-to-face argument or confrontation with someone.
- 22% have had an experience that ended their friendship with someone.
- 13% have had an experience that caused a problem with their parents.
- 13% have felt nervous about going to school the next day.
- 8% have gotten into a physical fight with someone else because of something that happened on a social network site.
- 6% have gotten in trouble at school because of an experience on a social network site.
19% of teens have been bullied in the past year in some form – either in person, online, by text, or by phone.
Overall, 19% of all teens report that they have been bullied in the last 12 months in at least one of the four scenarios about which we asked. Half of bullied teens say they were bullied in multiple ways.
- 12% of all teens report being bullied in person in the last 12 months.
- 9% of all teens have been bullied via text message in the last 12 months.
- 8% say they have experienced some form of online bullying, such as through email, a social network site or instant messaging.
- 7% say they have been bullied by voice calls over the phone.
- Girls are much more likely than boys to report they had been bullied in various ways, except in-person bullying, which happened to boys and girls in roughly equal proportion.
How do people respond to mean behavior online? Teens say they most often see people ignoring cruelty, but a substantial number have witnessed others standing up for victims.
Social media-using teens who have witnessed online cruelty say that people most often appear to ignore the situation, with a slightly smaller number of teens saying they also see others defending someone and telling others to stop their cruel behavior.
- 95% of social media-using teens who have witnessed cruel behavior on the sites say they have seen others ignoring the mean behavior; 55% witness this frequently.
- 84% have seen people defend the person being harassed, with 27% seeing this frequently.
- 84% have seen others tell someone to stop; 20% report seeing this frequently.
A majority of teens say their own reaction has been to ignore mean behavior when they see it on social media.
When asked about their own behavior, social media-using teens are most likely to say they ignore the behavior themselves, though others defend the victim and tell people to stop.
- 90% of social media-using teens who have witnessed online cruelty say they have ignored mean behavior on social media, and more than a third (35%) have done this frequently.
- 80% say they have defended the victim; 25% have done so frequently.
- 79% have told the other person to stop being mean and cruel; 20% have done so frequently.
Two-thirds of teens who have witnessed online cruelty have also witnessed others joining in – and 21% say they have also joined in the harassment.
Despite the high likelihood of teens seeing bystanders responding positively by standing up for or defending the attacked individual, they are also likely to witness others joining in the mean behavior.
- 67% of social media-using teens have witnessed others joining in the harassment they have seen. Teens are more likely to say they see joining in “once in a while” (24%) or “sometimes” (23%), than they are to report seeing it frequently (19%).
- 21% of social media-using teens who have witnessed online cruelty say they have joined in. Most of these teens (12%) say they have joined in the mean behavior only “once in a while,” 7% say “sometimes” and 2% say they have done it “frequently.”