Teenage Girls Portray Themselves as Sexy and Crazy Online, Survey Finds

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Teens

You may be shocked by your daughter's online image. Credit: Getty Images

The time your teenage daughter spends on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter may be causing identity confusion, as her online persona probably portrays a very different image than who she is in real life.

Nearly 74 percent of teenage girls believe other girls their age use social networking sites to make themselves "cooler than they really are" and 41 percent admit that this describes them, according to a national survey released this week by Girl Scouts of the USA.

The survey, which included more than 1,000 girls, ages 14 to 17, also found that girls downplay a number of their positive characteristics online, most notably 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 report themselves to be fun (54 percent), funny (52 percent) and social (48 percent). Girls with low self esteem are nearly twice as likely to say their social networking image doesn't match their in-person image and are more likely to say the image they portray online is sexy and crazy.

"Adults and teens alike need greater understanding about the ways girls represent themselves and communicate on social networking sites," Kimberlee Salmond, senior researcher at the Girl Scout Research Institute, says in a news release. "If girls are portraying themselves differently online than they are in person, this can impact their identity, sense of self and relationships."

Although girls have good intentions when it comes to online safety, they don't always act on them. A majority of girls say they understand their reputations and emotional safety are at risk online, yet 50 percent of them admit they are not always as careful online as they should be, the survey shows.

The average girl boasts 351 friends online, yet more than half the girls surveyed are friends with someone online they have never actually met in person. Further, more than half the girls think they have complete control over what happens with the videos, photos and other information they post online, the study reports.

Nearly 70 percent of girls report having a negative experience on a social networking site, such as being bullied or having someone gossip about them. And many are concerned their online activity will keep them from getting into their college of choice, cause them to miss out on a job opportunity or get them into trouble with parents and teachers, according to the survey.

Though they are fully entrenched in social networking sites, the vast majority of girls say they prefer face-to-face communication and 92 percent would give up all of their online friends if it meant keeping their best friend.

Yet social networking appears to provide girls with a way to maintain better relationships, as more than half of the girls surveyed say it helps them feel closer to their friends and more than two-thirds say the networks have increased the quality of their relationships, the survey finds.

Social networking also helps girls feel more connected to causes they care about, with more than half reporting they have gotten involved in a cause they care about through a social network.

The use of social networking is pervasive in teen girls. The vast majority of girls use Facebook (91 percent) and MySpace (28 percent) regularly and quite a few have a Twitter account (38 percent) through which they send an average of eight tweets per day, according to the survey.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.