October 14, 2007

Teenagers who create social networking profiles and post pictures online are more likely to receive contact from online strangers

Washington, DC – Girls, teens who post photos online and teens who create social networking profiles report higher rates of online contact by people unknown to them than boys or teens who do not post photos or maintain social networking profiles, according to recent analysis by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Although several factors are associated with high levels of stranger contact, the large majority of these interactions are benign—just 7% of online teens have ever had an interaction with a stranger that made them feel scared or uncomfortable. Among teens who have been contacted by someone they did not know, girls are much more likely than boys to find the communication scary or uncomfortable. While social networking teens are more likely to be contacted by strangers in the first place, they are no more likely to find these interactions scary than other online teens. “The internet is like any other public space,” said Aaron Smith, a research specialist at the Pew Internet Project and author of the data memo. “Just as in offline spaces like the park or the mall, interactions teens have anywhere are usually safe but can occasionally be scary or dangerous. Open communication and guidance are both key to helping teenagers identify potentially risky situations and respond appropriately.” These findings are based on a survey conducted by telephone from October 23 through November 19, 2006 among a national sample of 935 teens ages 12 to 17. About the Pew Internet & American Life Project The Pew Internet Project is a nonprofit initiative of the Pew Research Center and is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts to examine the social impact of the internet. The project is non-partisan and does not advocate policy outcomes.