Almost half 8-17 year-olds feel it's important to 'fit in' online, reveals poll

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17th February 2020 12:54 - Education

Almost half 8-17 year-olds polled feel it's important to 'fit in' online: A survey by the UK Safer Internet Centre to coincide with Safer Internet Day has found that 47% of the children and young people polled believe that it is important to 'fit in' when they are online. More than six in 10 (61%) also said that they feel the online world puts pressure on people to come across as 'perfect'.

Revealing that many children are aware of some of the pitfalls of the internet, 62% said they are mindful about the content that they share because they have witnessed people being mean, with seven in ten (70%) believing the internet makes it easy for users to be mean. 

The research, which polled 2,001 people aged 8-17 years, also found that almost a third have more than one account on the same platform, with 40% revealing this is so they can change how they are seen online. More than a third (36%) of respondents said they had set up an additional account (s) because they had been the victim of someone being mean to them.

Positive ways the internet is influencing young people

The research also highlighted some positive elements of being online, with a third of 8-17 year olds saying the internet has inspired them to take action about a cause in the last month. More than half polled (52%) said that in the last month they had messaged someone who was being bullied to offer support.  

Asked what they have done in the last 12 months to support a particular group or cause, 66% said they had liked or shared some else's post, with the same amount saying they had liked or followed a page or individual (66%). Six in ten (60%) said they had changed their profile picture or added a filter, while 57% had posted a supportive comment, image or article. Four in ten (40%) said they had signed an online petition, while 42% had replied to a post where somebody was saying negative things. 

Shaping identity

More than half the young people polled (54%) said that if they were no longer permitted to go online they would feel lost or confused, or even that they had lost a part of who they are, with 49% revealing that what they do and see when using the internet helps create their identity and shape who they are when not online. Almost two in five (38%) said that they found it easier to be themselves online - viewing it as a safe arena for personal development. 

Will Gardner OBE, Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, said:

“The internet is primarily a place of positivity for young people. Whether being inspired to be the next campaigner, supporter or friend – it’s a place for them to find their voice, explore their identities, and support each other.

“We must help young people on this journey by acknowledging the pressures, challenges and limits the internet also brings. We can do this by listening to them and starting conversations about our online lives."

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