As we noted above, 49% of adult SNS users at least occasionally see others being mean or offensive on the sites, a substantially smaller proportion than the 88% of teenage SNS-users who report they see such behavior at least occasionally. We asked the adults who had seen mean or offensive behavior on SNS what they do themselves in response. It turns out that compared to teen SNS users, adults are somewhat more likely to stand back, not get involved, and ignore the offensive behavior.
For instance, 45% of adult SNS users who have witnessed problems say they frequently ignore offensive behavior on social network sites, compared with 35% of SNS-using teens who say they frequently ignore offensive behavior. Some 34% of adult SNS users say they never confront the person being offensive, compared with 21% of SNS-using teens who never take that step. Some 29% of adults who have witnessed problems never defend the person or group being attacked, compared with 19% of teens who never take that action.
At the same time, adults who have seen harassment on SNS are a bit less likely than teens to say they join in the harassment that they see occurring on social networking sites.
Unlike many other aspects of social networking site use, age does not matter when it comes to people’s personal responses when they witness mean or offensive behavior. Young and old have similar patterns of response. However, there is a split when it comes to the behavior of men and women. Men are more likely to ignore a problem they see on a social networking site and women are more likely to respond. For instance:
- 26% of SNS-using women will frequently tell a person to stop attacking someone on a social networking site, but only 19% of SNS-using men will do that frequently. At the same time, 41% of men say they never tell someone to stop harassing another on a social networking site, while only 29% of women say they never take action when they see a problem unfolding.
- Similarly, 28% of SNS-using women say they frequently defend a person or group that is being harassed or insulted, while only 19% of men say they will frequently do so. At the same time, 33% of SNS-using men say they never defend a person or group that is under attack on a social networking site, compared with 25% of women who say they never defend someone under attack.
- Women who use SNS (87%) are also somewhat more likely than SNS-using men (81%) to say they never harass someone who is being harassed on a social networking site.