More than a third of young people in the U.K. (34%) say that something posted on a social network has made them feel depressed, including negative comments and bullying, according to a survey of 2,136 British respondents ages 16-25 conducted by YouGov, a British online research outfit, on behalf of the Prince’s Trust, a British youth charity.
The survey, conducted between October 29 and November 8 of last year, also found that 14% of respondents say they have been bullied online, and 20% reported having witnessed online bullying. Younger respondents were more likely to be the target of bullying, with 18% of teens ages 16-18 reporting being bullied, compared to 15% of respondents ages 19-21, and 10% of those ages 22-25.
The negative effects aren’t always the result of deliberate actions: 40% of respondents said they compare themselves to their peers online, and one in five said that social media Web sites made them feel inadequate in comparison to their peers.
On the positive side, 23% of the young people surveyed by YouGov said that social media give them a sense of community and friendship they would otherwise lack -- a proportion which increases to 33% among unemployed young people. Meanwhile 54% said the Internet lets them talk to like-minded people, and 39% said they were online friends with people they had never met (which might give some parents reason for concern). The motives for online socializing are pretty clear, as 31% of those surveyed said they “often” or “always” feel lonely.
Unsurprisingly there were also some significant gender differences, with girls and young women more likely to report negative online experiences, including being bullied (16%, versus 11% for males) and feeling depressed as a result of something they saw on a social network site. Half of teenage girls and young women surveyed said they compare themselves to their peers online, versus a third of teenage boys and young men.