Hey, teenagers are all about the Internet—girls even more than boys, and to their detriment. That’s the mix of conventional wisdom and news in a report out Tuesday from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that reviews movies and games for parents. The survey of 1,030 13- to 17-year-olds, found that nearly 90 percent have used some form of social media and 75 percent currently have a personal social networking website. The study also found that girls are more plugged in than their male counterparts: 77 percent of them text daily, 33 percent have used Twitter, and 75 percent love posting photographs online, while just 60 percent of boys text that often, 22 percent have ever used Twitter, and 42 percent say they enjoy putting up pictures. What’s noteworthy is that the gender difference comes at an emotional price: About half the girls polled admitted that content posted online often makes them worry about their appearance or social status. Just a quarter of the boys said the same.
The Common Sense data echoes the findings of a 2011 study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, in which researchers concluded that 67 percent of 12- to 13-year-old girls used a social networking site, and a third of them believed their peers were mostly unkind to each other online, while only 9 percent of the boys concurred. The divergence in the Pew data disappeared for older teenagers, 14 to 17, however. Roughly 20 percent of both boys and girls in that age range claimed that social networking sites were hostile environments. It’s interesting how differently worded questions appear to produce different gender splits.
The bottom line, though, is that girls just seem to care more about the way they appear in pictures, the number of friends they have, and, most importantly, about having perfect Internet versions of themselves. They fall harder online because they’re putting themselves out there more. That’s my theory, anyway. What’s yours?