We all know the cruel reality of the world, in that so many of us are not quite as nice as we should be.
But social networking seems to be rife with bullies and unfriendly, anti-social behaviour, according to a new report by Pew, with 88 percent of teenagers having witnessed mean or cruel activity on Facebook and Twitter.
(Source: Flickr, CC)
While nearly a third said they said they saw this kind of behaviour "sometimes", roughly one in ten said they saw this type of behaviour online "frequently", amongst the 799 teenagers aged between 12 and 17.
Experts say that combined with the ease of communication and factors of online anonymity, it is as though social networks 'invite' in negative commentary and uncouth behaviour from other users.
The research shows that overall, however, that more teenagers reported positive experiences than negative ones from interactions on social networks, with 78 percent reporting at least one good outcome, with 41 percent mentioning a negative outcome.
While Facebook has definitive reporting mechanisms and comments that are profile-linked, and the requirement to use real identities on the social network, Twitter can be used to send anonymous hate messages, and even be used to break super-injunctions and gagging orders.
According to the Washington Post, some can assume an "alter ego" on the web, criminologically speaking this is more prevalent than society often realises.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg caused controversy earlier this year when he suggested those under the age of 13 should be allowed to use the social network. Seen as a push towards attaining the billion mark, the idea was highly rebuked by many.
Currently, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) does not allow the collection or retention of data held on any child under the age of 13.Facebook adheres to this policy, but many underage users actively connect to the site on a daily basis. Facebook is said to remove hundreds of profiles a day, belonging to those under the age of 13.
But it would be wrong to blame social networks like Facebook and Twitter and others for online bullying. Of course, they can be blamed for not doing more to combat abusive comments, photos and law-breaking behaviour, but ultimately responsibility must lie with the person using the social networks.
Technology is, after all, merely an intermediary. It is people who cause harm, not technology.
- Does cyberbullying exist, and is technology to blame?
- Facebook CEO's worst idea to date: Profiles for under-13's
- Gallery: Facebook’s greatest controversies and biggest foul-ups
- College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?