Online teens who use social network sites are twice as likely as non-users to say they have misrepresented their age online in order to gain access to websites and online services (49% vs. 26%), according to a survey conducted between April and July 2011 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The teens who admitted to this practice did not specify the sites where they had misrepresented their age.

Teenage users of social media commonly provide false information, as was documented in a 2007 study by the Pew Internet Project. At the time of the study, more than half of users said they had posted “some” fake information on their profiles. Many of the examples given by teens in focus groups included misrepresenting one’s age.

The latest survey shows that 45% of online 12-year-olds use social network sites like Facebook and MySpace, all of which have a minimum age of 13. Looking specifically at Twitter, 13% of all 12-year-old internet users say they use the site in some fashion. A Consumer Reports study from this year, which produced estimates based on parent interviews, suggested that 7.5 million American children under the age of 13 and approximately 5 million children age 10 and under were Facebook users. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.