The nationwide survey, which included more than 1,000 girls ages 14 through 17, finds that girls downplay several positive characteristics of themselves online, most prominently their intelligence, kindness and efforts to be a positive influence. In person, girls say they come across as smart (82 percent), kind (76 percent) and a good influence (59 percent), whereas online, girls consider themselves fun (54 percent), funny (52 percent) and social (48 percent). Girls with low self-esteem are more likely to admit their social networking image does not match their in-person image (33 percent vs. 18 percent of girls with high self-esteem) and are also more likely to claim that the image they portray online is sexy (22 percent vs. 14 percent) and crazy (35 percent vs. 28 percent). According to Kimberlee Salmond, senior researcher at the Girl Scout Research Institute:
“Adults and teens alike need greater understanding about the ways girlsThe Girl Scout survey also sheds light on the fact that a majority of girls understand their emotional safety and reputations are at risk online, yet 50 percent admit to not always being as careful as they should be online. Sixty-eight percent of girls have had a negative experience on a social networking site, such as having someone gossip about them or being bullied. Furthermore, many girls are concerned that they won’t get into their college of choice (42 percent), will miss a job opportunity (40 percent) and will get into trouble with parents and teachers (40 percent).
represent themselves and communicate on social networking sites... If girls are
portraying themselves differently online than they are in person, this can
impact their identity, sense of self and relationships.”
In contrast, the vast majority of girls prefer face-to-face communication. Ninety-two percent would give up all of their social networking friends if it meant keeping their best friend. The study also finds that social networking provides an avenue for girls to maintain better relationships and feel more connected to causes they care about. Fifty-six percent of girls agree that social networking helps them feel closer to their friends, and 36 percent think that social networks have increased the quality of their relationships. Fifty-two percent of girls have gotten involved in a cause they care about through a social network.
Do you have thoughts about the online lives of teenage girls?