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Posted on Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 1:07 p.m.

Survey: Girls Say Face-to-face Friends Top Facebook Friends

By Char Luttrell

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Teen girls say they would “give up all of their social networking friends if it meant keeping their best friend,” according to a recent survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute.Nearly all (92 percent) of girls surveyed say they would choose a face-to-face friendship over online friends.The nationwide GSRI study, sponsored by Girl Scouts of the USA, gathered opinions from 1,026 girls aged 14-17 with social networking profiles on Face book (91 percent) and MySpace (28 percent).

Girls surveyed said that a girl’s reality does not match her social network image. Of those surveyed, 74 percent agreed that “most girls my age use social networking sites to make themselves look cooler than they really are.” Forty-one percent said that described their own online profile. Girls who reported low self-esteem were more likely than those who reported high self-esteem to portray themselves as “sexy” (22 percent versus 14 percent) and “crazy” (35 percent vs. 28 percent). Girls also said they downplayed positive characteristics (such as “smart,” “kind,” and “good influence”) when online.

In Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, girls in fourth and fifth grade, and older, can take an Internet Safety Pledge as part of the New Girl Scout Leadership Experience curriculum. The girls learn how to stay safe online and how to stop cyberbulying.

“Who’s That Girl? Images and Social Media” is the title of the GSRI document that reports results of the survey taken in June of 2010. Other key survey findings include the following:

Girls have good intentions to practice safe social networking behavior, but do not always act on those intentions. Eighty-five percent of respondents said they had talked with their parents about safe online behavior; however, exactly half admitted they were not as careful as they should be. Survey participants averaged 351 online friends, but 54 percent of girls said they were online “friends” with someone they have never met in person.

The emotional safety of girls is at-risk on social networks. Of the survey respondents, 68 percent said they had had negative experience on a social networking site, such as being the object of gossip or bullying. Forty percent said they lost respect for a friend because of something she or he had posted online.

Social networking connects girls with relationships and causes they care about. A little more than half the girls in the survey (52 percent) said they got involved in a cause they support via social networking. More than half (56 percent) said that social networks help them feel closer to their friends.

Char Luttrell is a communications specialist for Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan. You can reach her at