February 2011

GSRI Quarterly
Girls and Social Media
Issue No. 11

Go Ask a Girl:
A Decade of Findings from the Girl Scout Research Institute

Go Ask a Girl

For the past ten years, the Girl Scout Research Institute has conducted and disseminated research to a variety of audiences on critical issues faced by girls and young women. The goal of the GSRI is to raise awareness and inform public policy by amplifying the voices of girls on issues that are important to them and for them. Listening to girls’ voices is consistent with the larger vision of encouraging girl leadership held by the Girl Scouts of the USA.

In honor of a decade of research, the GSRI published Go Ask a Girl: A Decade of Findings from the Girl Scout Research Institute (2010), highlighting key findings from past research reports. A total of 22 research reports have been produced in the last 10 years, on topics including healthy living, civic engagement, leadership and values, safety, self-esteem, body image, and engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Go Ask a Girl summarizes and points out interesting facts about girls’ attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors through changing times. For example, did you know that one in four girls are dissatisfied with their bodies (The New Normal? What Girls Say About Healthy Living, 2006)? Or that 84% intend to vote (Good Intentions: The Beliefs and Values of Teens and Tweens Today, 2009)? Did you know that girls in 2009 said they would engage in fewer risky behaviors than said girls in 1989, including drinking, smoking, drug use, and premarital sex (Good Intentions, 2009)?

Go Ask a Girl has been well-received by the Girl Scouts community. We hope that findings summarized in this publication will continue to inform program, advocacy, and policy efforts for girls within and beyond Girl Scouts.

To order this publication, visit http://www.girlscouts.org/research/ or e-mail gsresearch@girlscouts.org.

Ten-Year GSRI Event/Celebration

A decade of research was commemorated on the evening of November 4, 2010 with a special event entitled “Who’s that Girl? Self-Image in the 21st Century” held at the Bryant Park Hotel in Manhattan. This event marked the release of the most recent research findings on girls and social media conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute, and included a panel of adult and girl experts who discussed critical issues faced by girls and young women today. Adult panelists included Emme, supermodel and founder of The Body Image Council; Maya Enista, CEO of mobilize.org; Gabi Gregg, MTV Twitter Jockey; Peggy Orenstein, New York Times Magazine journalist; Janie Victoria Ward, Ph.D., professor of education at Simmons College; and Kimberlee Salmond, senior researcher at the Girl Scout Research Institute.

Among the issues and topics discussed at length during this expert panel session was the need for more adult female role models, problems with self-esteem being tied closely to body image, the importance of protecting against relational aggression and bullying, and the importance of monitoring teen girls’ social networking behavior. The event was a huge success, with close to 100 attendees including experts in the youth development community and media personnel, and generated a wide range of press coverage, including stories on WebMD, LiveScience, Jezebel, and Feministing, among many others.

Who's that Girl?
Image and Social Media Survey

Who's That Girl? Image and Social Media Survey

Social networking Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter have infiltrated the lives of teen girls. Teens spend several hours a day posting photos and videos, status updates, and chatting with their friends. The most recent GSRI research study, Who’s that Girl? Image and Social Media (2010), investigated the positive and negative impacts of social networking among 1,026 girls ages 14–17, and found that while teen girls are physically and emotionally engaged in social networking, nearly all (92%) still prefer face-to-face communication.

Teen girls present themselves in a different light on social networking sites, tending to portray themselves as fun (54%), funny (52%), and social (48%), while underplaying in-person positive characteristics such as intelligence (82% in person) and kindness (76% in person). This difference is more pronounced among girls with low self-esteem.

Additionally, the majority of teen girls (68%) report that they have had a negative experience on a social networking site, such as being gossiped about (41%), having had personal information revealed to others (28%), or being bullied (20%). Actually, 55% of teen girls admit to having been the root of negative behavior on social networking sites. Girls with low self-esteem are more likely to have negative experiences on these sites (78%).

Teen girls have good intentions about safe social networking, but fewer act on these intentions. Although 85% of teen girls report that they have had conversations with parents about safe social networking, more than half (54%) are friends with people they’ve never met, and many offer personal information such as their school name (75%) and contact information (38%) on their profiles.

The news is not all bad; the majority of teen girls (56%) report that they have experienced closer and “more social” relationships due to social networking. In addition, more than half (52%) of teen girls surveyed have become involved in a cause they care about through social networking and many (41%) have stood up for another person being threatened, harassed, or bullied on a social network. Further, about half of teen girls (48%) feel that social networking fosters more honest communication.

Findings from this study show that teen girls need to better understand social networking privacy controls and could benefit from more and better communication with family members on safe social networking. Parents should be involved in their teens’ social networking and teen girls shouldn’t feel pressured to act differently or hide their positive attributes on these sites. Having more friends and looking cool through provocative photos could backfire, since gossiping and bullying are rampant on social networking sites.

Check out what prominent sites are saying about this study:


Ms. Magazine Blog

Girl Up


Chicago Tribune

Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan

About GSRI

The Girl Scout Research Institute, formed in 2000, is a vital extension of Girl Scouts of the USA.

The GSRI conducts original research, evaluation, and outcomes measurement studies, releases critical facts and findings, and provides resources essential for the advancement of the well-being and safety of girls living in today’s world.

The GSRI also informs public policy and advocacy for Girl Scouting.

P.S. Did you know that the GSRI celebrated its 10th anniversary on September 13, 2010? We’d like you to help celebrate the good news by forwarding this email to your friends and colleagues who might be interested in subscribing (and they’ll tell their friends, who will tell their friends…). Please have them click here to subscribe.

About Girl Scouting

Visit: www.girlscouts.org

Contact Us

Girl Scout Research Institute

Public Policy and Advocacy
Washington, D.C., Office

Girl Scouts of the USA

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Additional Findings

The rise in Internet/Social Media use by teens

  • Teens’ use of the Internet has risen from 75% in 2000 to 93% in 2009. Nearly three quarters (73%) of online teens use social networking sites. (Pew Internet & American Life Project: Social Media and Young Adults, 2010)
  • Teen girls have an average of 351 social networking friends and have posted an average of 189 photos. Half of teen girls surveyed say they would feel a major sense of loss if social networking sites went away. (GSRI, Who’s that Girl?: Images and Social Media, 2010)

More benefits of social media

  • A recent study out of Lock Haven University found that college students who were asked to incorporate social media (Twitter) into their homework assignments reported more engagement and a higher GPA than a control group. onlinelibrary.wiley.com
  • The Prevention Researcher covered social media in its most recent publication (December 2010). Additional benefits of social media were summarized, including accessibility of academic support and homework help through a number of interactive Web sites for teens, and accessibility of community forums for teens to anonymously share personal issues and learn information. tpronline.org

More concerns about
Social Media

  • The Prevention Researcher (December 2010) summarized some additional risks of social media, including misinformation on community Web sites designed to help educate and offer advice to teens about personal issues. tpronline.org
  • The Habbo Hotel Global Online Safety Survey asked 61,000 respondents across 33 countries about Internet use, finding that 24% of children under eight are using the Internet without supervision, about one-third of teens have regretted sharing personal information online, and online bullying is witnessed regularly by almost a quarter of teens.

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