At least one in three teenagers has been the victim of online bullying – and the more time they spend online, in social networking areas or instant messaging one another, the better the chance of it happening.
The most common form of cyber-bullying is a supposedly-private IM or e-mail posted where anyone can view it, but also includes online rumour-spreading and downright threats.
This is one of the findings of a new suvey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project looks at how teenagers share information online – and the impacts they are likely to experience. Victimisation is rapidly emerging as one of the impact of online identity and sharing.
According to the research, young adults and teenagers are the most avid users of social networking sites.
"For many online teens, particularly those with profiles, privacy and disclosure choices are made as they create and maintain social networking profiles," the research points out. "Of course, material shared in a profile is just one of many places where information is shared online – but it provides a snapshot into the choices that teens make to share in a relatively public and persistent online environment.
"Further, we went on to examine the interactions teens have with people unknown to them on social networking sites, exploring the nature of new friendships created on the networks, as well as unwelcome, and some times uncomfortable or scary stranger contacts."
Most teenagers do take steps to protect themselves online from the most obvious areas of risk. The survey shows that many youth actively manage their personal information as they perform a balancing act between keeping some important pieces of information confined to their network of trusted friends.
However, teenagers still make some important information public. For example:
* 61% have included the name of their city or town;
* 49% have included the name of their school;
* 40% have included their instant message screen name;
* 40% have streamed audio to their profile;
* 39% have linked to their blog;
* 29% have included their email address;
* 29% have included their last names;
* 29% have included videos;
* 2% have included their cell phone numbers;
* 6% of online teens and 11% of profile-owning teens post their first and last names on publicly-accessible profiles; and;
* 3% of online teens and 5% of profile-owning teens disclose their full names, photos of themselves and the town where they live in publicly-viewable profiles.
It seems the older people get, the more information they are willing to share.
Teenagers from 15 to 17 with online profiles are more likely than younger teens to post photos of themselves or friends to their profile as well as share their school name online. Older girls are more likely than any other group to share photos of friends, while younger girls are more likely than younger boys to have shared information about their blog on their profile.
Parents are aware of the dangers posed by the Internet, and more households have rules about Internet usage that about other media, such as television or video games.
* 85% of parents of online teens say they have rules about internet sites their child can or cannot visit;
* 75% of parents of online teens say they have rules about the television shows their child can watch;
* 65% of parents of online teens say they restrict the kinds of video games their child can play;
* 85% of parents of online teens say they have established rules about the kinds of personal information their child can share with people they talk to on the internet; and
* 69% say they have household rules for how long a teen can spend online, compared with 57% of parents of online teens who say they restrict the amount of time their child spends watching TV, and the 58% who limit time spent playing video games.