Poll: Is Facebook good or bad for teenagers?

The new world of online cruelty.
July 20 2011 11:12 AM

Is Facebook Good or Bad for Teenagers?

Take an anonymous survey about kids and social networking.

Take an anonymous survey about teenagers and Facebook.

Girl using a computer. Click image to expand.

Twenty million teenagers under the age of 18 have Facebook accounts. Of that group, 7.5 million are under the age of 13—the minimum age set both by federal law and Facebook itself. These numbers come from survey results announced in June by Consumer Reports. The magazine also found that many of the underage users weren't being supervised by their parents and that 1 million children had been "harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on the site in the past year."

This is one lens through which to view kids' use of Facebook—the lens of risk. But you can also argue that the site is a useful social tool for teens, allowing them to strengthen their existing friendships, connect with kids with common interests who they might not otherwise meet, and express themselves with newfound creativity. Yes, there's opportunity for bullying, but that's not necessarily a product of Facebook or social networking more generally. It's a fact of teenage life, however unfortunate.

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Still, Facebook is taking new steps to protect kids from online cruelty. Earlier this year, the company unveiled a Family Safety Center on the site and a "social reporting tool" designed to help kids report online harassment to a trusted adult. This month, Facebook announced a "social pledge app," to launch in the fall, which will ask parents, kids, and teachers to commit to helping stop online bullying. How exactly this will work Facebook hasn't yet explained, except to say that the pledge will be interactive.

What do you think about teenagers' use of Facebook? If you're a teen, have you ever had problems on the site? If you're a parent, teacher, school administrator, or anyone else thinking about these issues, do you see Facebook as a force for good or ill in kids' lives? What about another social networking site, Formspring? We'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions. You can complete this anonymous survey or send us an email at cyberbullying.slate@gmail.com. We're excited to hear from you. Please pass on the link to other people who might want to respond, especially parents, school staff, and teenagers. We're particularly eager to hear from young people!

Take the survey by clicking here.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones