EDUCATION
11/09/2011 02:18 pm ET | Updated Jan 09, 2012

9 Out of 10 Teenagers Witness Bullying And Meanness On Social Sites Like Facebook, Twitter

Most teens aged 12 to 17 are now online, and most of those use social media sites, according to a new survey. The prevalence of this online community has fostered teens' social lives, both positively and negatively.

While 95 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 are online, and 80 of those who are online use social media sites, nearly 9 in 10 teens report having seen mean or cruel behavior on those sites, according to the report by the Pew Research Center. About a third said they sometimes witnessed the cruel behavior, while 12 percent said they saw it frequently. Fifteen percent of social media-using teens said they had been the target of online bullying.

But the news isn't all bad. More teens say they have positive experiences than negative ones on social network sites: 78 percent reported at least one good outcome, compared with 41 percent who reported at least one negative outcome.

"Most of the time, these are pleasant places to be," Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher and lead author of the report, told Bloomberg Businessweek. "But there are some dark moments popping up once a while. For a subset of teens, the world of social media presents a climate of drama and mean behavior."

The study also showed that others on social sites defending victims: 84 percent have seen people defend the person harassed or telling someone to stop. Almost all of those surveyed said they see victims ignore the behavior or would ignore the meanness if they were targeted.

By contrast, an Associated Press-MTV poll showed in September that young people see online racist and sexist slurs as just joking.

In July, a Burn Book like the one featured in the movie Mean Girls that singled out students and called them names on Facebook led school officials in Texas to launch a district-wide investigation.

"The younger the kid, the meaner the peer group becomes, so this is an alert to parents that not every kid is ready for the independence of having their own social networking page," Rachel Simmons, an author and speaker on children and social media, told The Washington Post.