Home Pew Research unveils high rates of social media use in teens despite risks

Pew Research unveils high rates of social media use in teens despite risks

A recent Pew Research Center survey reveals that despite growing concerns about the impact of social media on youth mental health, teens continue to use major platforms at high rates. The survey, involving 1,453 U.S. teens aged 13 to 17, found that about half of the respondents described their social media use as “almost constant.”

This survey, conducted months after U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s warning about the potential risks of social media to youth, indicates that teens’ engagement with these platforms has remained largely unchanged since spring 2022. Notably, the survey did not delve into how teens perceive their social media use or its effects on their mental health and well-being, according to a recent Mashable report.

Laura Erickson-Schroth, Chief Medical Officer of The Jed Foundation, emphasizes the importance of social media for teens. These platforms serve as spaces for community building, identity exploration, news consumption, stress relief, and more. Erickson-Schroth acknowledges the reality of ‘fear of missing out’ among youth, given the widespread online presence of their peers.

The survey also highlights the popularity of various social media platforms among teens. YouTube emerged as the top choice, with approximately 90% of participants using it. TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram were also popular, especially among 15- to 17-year-olds. In contrast, teen usage of Facebook and X/Twitter has significantly declined over the past decade.

Teen social media preferences and demographic variations

The report also sheds light on demographic variations in social media use. For instance, teen girls reported almost constant TikTok usage more than boys, and Hispanic and Black teens used YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok more frequently than white teens. Additionally, Facebook and TikTok usage was higher among teens from lower-income households compared to those from higher-income households.

The Pew findings suggest that a third of teens use at least one of the five major platforms almost constantly. This constant engagement raises questions about the balance between online and offline experiences, particularly in-person socializing, family interactions, and time spent in nature.

Erickson-Schroth advocates for a more thoughtful approach to social media use among teens. She encourages them to reflect on how their interactions with these platforms affect their emotions and well-being. However, she also stresses that the responsibility for fostering healthier social media habits should not fall solely on teens. Instead, it should be shared by the companies that run these platforms.

Erickson-Schroth suggests that tech and social media companies can play a significant role in improving online experiences for youth. This includes moderating harmful content more effectively, providing data for research on youth well-being, and enabling users to have greater control over their online environments. Additionally, she calls for policymakers to establish minimum safety standards for youth online, which are currently lacking.

In response to increasing pressure to enhance online safety for teens, some social media companies have initiated new safety measures. For instance, YouTube has recently announced plans to limit harmful repetitive content targeted at teens and updated its guidelines to remove content promoting eating disorders.

Erickson-Schroth concludes, “We should be talking about who’s responsible for making sure that young people are safe online, and the answer is adults. The high-level answer is adults in social media companies and adults in policy and government positions.” This perspective underscores the collective responsibility of society to ensure a safe and healthy online environment for the younger generation.

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Maxwell Nelson
Tech Journalist

Maxwell Nelson, a seasoned journalist and content strategist, has contributed to industry-leading platforms, weaving complex narratives into insightful articles that resonate with a broad readership.

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