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Girl Scout Study Looks at Teen Girls, Social Networks, and Self Esteem

Last Updated: February 20, 2014

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

The Girl Scout Research Institute surveyed more than 1000 teen girls about their interactions in social networks like Facebook or MySpace. The results offer a fascinating look into social atmosphere of teenage girls and how they present themselves online to others.

Survey participants were girls ages 14-17 who had a social network profile.

  • 91% use Facebook
  • 28% use MySpace
  • 38% use Twitter

Social networks help girls feel more connected with their friends, but “friendships” in social networking spheres are often more about quantity than quality.

  • 56% of girls think social networks help them feel closer and more connected to their friends.
  • Only 30% of girls think social networks have increased the quality of their relationships.
  • 54% of girls are social networking friends with someone they have never actually met in person.
  • 92% would give up all their social networking friends if it meant keeping their best friend.

Most girls claim they portray a more well-rounded image in person than they do online. Girls said they tend to downplay certain positive characteristics about themselves online, such as their intelligence, kindness, and their efforts to be a positive influence. The most frequent words girls used to describe how they come across on their online profile are fun (54%), funny (52%), and social (48%). (For more information about this, read our article in our e-magazine.)

  • 74% believe “most girls my age use social networking sites to make themselves look cooler than they really are.” 41% said this describes them.
  • 22% of girls with low self-esteem claim they portray a “sexy” image on social networks. 14% of girls with higher self-esteem said the same.
  • 35% of girls with low self-esteem claim they portray a “crazy” image on social networks. 28% of girls with higher self-esteem said the same.
  • 42% of girls are concerned they won’t get accepted into their college of choice because of their social networking content.
  • 40% of girls are concerned they will miss a job opportunity because of their social networking content.
  • 40% of girls are concerned they will get in trouble with parents or teachers because of their social networking content.
  • 39% of girls are concerned their friends/family will lose respect for them because of their social networking content.

Most girls have also had some kind of negative experiences using social networks.

  • 68% of girls have had been gossiped about or bullied on a social networking site.
  • 46% of girls think social networking often creates jealousy among friends.

Most girls who answered the survey (85%) have talked with their parents about safe social networking, but half of them admit they are not always as careful as they should be. For parents of teen girls, this research can be a helpful starting point for conversation about the pros and cons of social networks

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