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For Teens 'Going Online' Usually Means 'Going on Facebook'

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Social media use has become so pervasive in the lives of American teens that having a presence on a social networking site, Facebook in particular, is almost synonymous with being online, according to a report by Pew Research.

Among key findings issued by Pew: 

  • Fully 95% of surveyed teens age 12-17 use the Internet; among them, 80% use social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace. 
  • 16% of online teens age 12-17 use Twitter and teen girls are twice as likely to use the microblogging service. 

Such teen social media users now comprise 76% of all those age 12-17. 

Below, additional findings from The 2011 Teens and Digital Citizenship Survey issued by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, in partnership with the Family Online Safety Institute and supported by Cable in the Classroom.

Where Teens Maintain their Social Media Accounts


Facebook is by far the most popular social networking site among teens: 93% of teen social media users maintain a Facebook account. MySpace ranks a distant second (24%), followed by Twitter (12%).


One Account vs. Multiple Accounts

Some 59% of teen social media users have an account on just one site, whereas 41% have accounts on multiple sites. Among teens with one social media profile, 89% maintain that one account on Facebook while the remainder is spread among a number of sites. Among teens with multiple accounts, fully 99% have an account on Facebook.


Sites such as Twitter and YouTube are far more popular among teens with multiple accounts: 29% of those with two or more accounts have a Twitter account and 15% of such teens have a YouTube account.

Young Girls Twice as Likely as Boys to Tweet

As noted above, 16% of those age 12 to 17 use Twitter. Teen girls are more than twice as likely to use the microblogging service, 22% vs. 10%. (By contrast, 13% of online US adults use Twitter, according to Pew's June-2011 report.)

Twitter use also varies by age, ethnicity, and income level. Most dramatically, black online teens are more than three times as likely as whites to use Twitter (34% vs. 11%), while older teens and those with lower annual household incomes are more active on the microblogging service.

Social Media and Digital Citizenship

The Pew report also explored how people behave on social networking sites. Among key findings: 

  • Falsifying ages: More than one-half of those age 13 (54%) and age 14 (53%) have lied about their ages in order to access a website.
  • Appropriate content: 58% of teens say their parents have the greatest influence over what they deem appropriate when online or using a cell phone. 
  • Good experiences: 69% of socially networked teens have encountered "mostly kind" people when visiting social networking sites; 5% have found people to be "mostly unkind."
  • Online cruelty: In the previous 12 month, 15% of socially networked teens have experience cruelty from another teen; 13% have experienced cruelty from an adult.
  • Reporting inappropriate behavior: After witnessing cruelty online, 36% of teens have sought advice from others; among them 53% have turned to friends or peers for advice, whereas 36% have sought counsel from their parents. 

About the data: The 2011 Teens and Digital Citizenship Survey, sponsored by the Pew Research Center's  Internet and American Life Project is based on a survey of 799 US teens age 12 to 17 and their parents via telephone interviews. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source, LLC from April 19 to July 14, 2011. The report is authored by Amanda Lenhart, Mary Madden, Aaron Smith, Kristen Purcell, Kathryn Zickuhr, and Lee Rainie, published on Nov 8, 2011 and accessed on Nov 17, 2011.


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