November 14, 2011
Topics: Get Involved

Is your teen a good “digital citizen”?

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FOSI conference

Recently, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project came out with a report about the types of experiences teens are having online and how they are addressing negative behavior they see or experience. In this report, Pew Internet tries to answer an important question concerning what makes a good or bad “digital citizen” in an increasingly technology-based world. According to the report, 95% of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites.


Other findings conclude that the majority of social media-using teens say their peers are mostly kind to one another online, as opposed to social media-using adults whose views were less positive. Overall, 88% of teens who use social media have witnessed other people being mean or cruel on social media sites, while 69% of adults using social media witnessed cruel or mean behavior. With these high numbers, I feel our society could benefit from an Internet “time out” for users who misbehave online.


However, what is most fascinating about the statistics above is that of the 88% of teens and 69% of adults who witnessed mean behavior online, the majority of them ignore it! A majority of teens say their own reaction has been to ignore mean behavior that they see online. This issue of standing around and not taking action when someone is being teased or bullied needs to be addressed, especially when it is happening online. Teens need to feel empowered to do the right thing and be encouraged to not be bystanders. They need strong role models to look up to on how to act and trust that they have someone reliable to turn to when someone is being bullyed or cyberbullyed.


The Pew Internet report noted that teens need more guidance from parents, educators, and their peers about online behaviors and coping with challenging experiences. 95% of social media-using teens who have witnessed cruel behavior online have seen others ignore it. However, 84% of social media-using teens stated that they have also seen people defend the person being harassed and tell someone to stop. 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 on the mean behavior.


This report drew attention to the fact that most teens depend a great deal on parents and peers for advice about online behaviors and coping with challenging experiences. 86% of online and cell phone using-teens say that they have received general advice about how to use the Internet responsibly and safely from their parents. 70% of online and cell phone using-teens say that they have gotten advice about internet safety from teachers or another adult at school. These statistics are high considering the number of teens who receive information about Internet safety but a notable number of teens still engage in online practices that may have the potential to compromise their safety online. Parents and educators need better guidance and information to know how to talk to and protect teens from online predators and cyberbullying.


The findings from this Pew Internet report are important to our work in empowering school professionals with the right information about health and safety issues. This report was presented at FOSI’s (Family Online Safety Institute) 2011 annual conferenceheld in Washington, D.C., and was entitled “Strategies for Safe and Healthy Online Use.”


Read the Pew Internet report, ask your child or students if they have ever witnessed mean or cruel behavior online and how they responded, and check out bNetS@vvy for practical tools and tips about how to be a good “digital citizen”.


For a summary of the Pew Internet report click here.


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