Experiences of 11-16 year olds on social networking sites A survey of young people's online experiences and coping strategies

Girl on tabletResearchers conducted an online self-completion survey in December 2012 of 1,024 11-16 year olds in the UK. They found that 28% of children aged 11-16 with a profile on a social networking site had experienced something upsetting on it in the last year.

This report describes those experiences and the strategies young people used to deal with the things that upset them online, including cyber bullying and stalking.

Authors: Claire Lilley, Ruth Ball and Heather Vernon
Published: 2014

  • Over one in four (28%) of children aged 11-16 with a profile on a social networking site have experienced something upsetting on it in the last year.
  • Of the children and young people who were upset, 11% were dealing with upsetting experiences on a daily basis.
  • The most reported issue experienced on social networking sites was trolling, experienced by 37% of children who had been upset.
  • Other issues experienced by children who had been upset included: pressure to look or act a certain way (14%), cyber stalking (12%), aggressive and violent language (18%), encouragement to hurt themselves (3%), receiving unwanted sexual messages (12%), and requests to send or respond to a sexual message (8%).
  • Over half of 11-16 year olds (58%) believed at least one of the people responsible for the behaviour which had upset or bothered them was either a complete stranger, someone they only knew online, or they did not know who it was at all.
  • Only 22% of the children who were upset talked with someone else face to face about the experience.
Executive summary  5
Introduction  6
Why children are particularly vulnerable  6
11-16 year olds’ use of social networking sites  9
The experiences of 11-16 year olds  12
The experiences of boys and girls  21
Appendix 1: Methodology and ethics  29
Appendix 2: Profile of 11-16 year olds in our sample  30

Please cite as: Lilley, C., Ball, R. and Vernon, H. (2014) The experiences of 11-16 year olds on social networking sites. [London]: NSPCC.

Looking for something in particular?

Our Information Service can help you find the latest policy, practice and research in child protection.

Call 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk for more information.

Submit an enquiry

Related resources

Neglect or emotional abuse in teenagers: Core info leaflet

Leaflet on what is currently known about teenagers’ experiences of neglect and emotional harm. Part of the Core info leaflet series.
Find out more

Younger children and social networking sites: a blind spot

Research into the experiences of 11-12 year olds on social networking sites how to protect them.
Find out more

Sexting: an exploration of practices, attitudes and influences

Findings from focus groups with young people, aged 13-14 years and 10-11 years in England. 
Find out more

Qualitative study of children, young people and 'sexting'

Research with young people to discover how sexually explicit texts and images are produced, circulated and used through mobile phones and the internet.
Find out more

Helpline highlight: the under-reporting of sexual abuse

Looks at contacts to the NSPCC between 2011-12 about sexual abuse. Part of the NSPCC's Helpline highlight series.
Find out more

Boys and girls speak out: a qualitative study of children’s gender and sexual cultures

Research by Cardiff University looks at how younger children perceive gender, sexual identity and relationships. 
Find out more

Online abuse: learning from case reviews

Lessons from case reviews published since 2008, where online abuse was a key factor.
Find out more

Services for children, families and professionals

We work face to face with children, young people and families who need our help across the UK.
View our services

NSPCC helpline

Through the NSPCC helpline, we offer help, advice and support to thousands of parents, professionals and families.
Read about our helplines

Sexting

How to talk to children about the risks of sexting - and what you can do to protect them
What you can do about sexting

Share Aware

Children are told it's good to share, but sharing too much online can be dangerous. Help your child stay safe on social networks, apps and games.
Be Share Aware

Online safety

Helpful advice and tools you can use to help keep your child safe whenever and wherever they go online.
Online safety advice

Online porn

Advice on how to talk to your child about the risks of online porn and sexually explicit material.
Online porn

Healthy sexual behaviour in children and young people

Useful advice on what is normal sexual behaviour, warning signs that suggest there may be a problem, and how best to react.
What is healthy sexual behaviour?

CASPAR

Our Current Awareness Service for Practice, Policy And Research delivers free weekly email alerts to keep you up-to-date with all the latest safeguarding and child protection news.

CASPAR is currently being upgraded but you can still sign up by contacting our Information Service.

Sign up to CASPAR

Information Service

Our free service for people who work with children can help you find the latest policy, practice, research and news on child protection and related subjects.

For more information, call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

0808 800 5000

Submit an enquiry

Follow @NSPCCpro

Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.

Follow @NSPCCpro on Twitter

Library catalogue

We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.

Search the library

New in the Library

A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.

New in the Library is currently being upgraded but you can still sign up by contacting our Information Service.

Sign up to New in the Library

Helping you keep children safe

Read our guide for professionals on what we do and the ways we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.

Read our guide (PDF)

Impact and evidence hub

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

Get expert training and consultancy

Grow your child protection knowledge and skills with CPD certified courses delivered by our experts nationwide and online.
Get expert training

Sharing knowledge to keep children safe

Read our guide to NSPCC Knowledge and Information Services to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.

Read our guide (PDF)