Most teenagers feel that social media has a positive impact on their emotions, according to a survey by non-profit group Common Sense Media. While respondents are more likely to feel good while browsing a social feed, teens admitted that they are often distracted, suspecting tech companies of manipulating them into using devices more often.
Common Sense Media, a group focused on media and technology and their impact on children, surveyed 1,143 US consumers between the ages of 13-17. Participants were given two options per question, such as less/more or agree/disagree.
Teenagers are less interested in talking face-to-face than they were five years ago, the study found, and they are more likely to text than communicate through social media. When they do, Snapchat is the platform of choice, followed by Instagram.
A quarter of respondents indicated that using social media makes them feel less lonely, compared to only three percent who said the opposite. The study found that teenagers with a higher “social-emotional well-being” were less likely to be negatively impacted by what goes on in the social feed, whereas those already prone to sad feelings had these fears validated.
For example, respondents with a low sense of emotional well-being were more likely to feel left out or excluded (70 percent) or feel bad about themselves if no one comments or likes a post (43 percent). This same group of users experienced more cyberbullying, as well—35 percent compared to just five percent of those deemed to have high social-emotional well-being. The study did not indicate whether this bullying caused feelings of low emotional well-being online in the first place.
Respondents admitted that social media distracts them from their duties such as homework and one in five admitted to texting while driving. Tech companies might be to blame, according to these teenagers, however. Seventy-two percent believe that tech companies manipulate their users into spending more time with devices.
Social media has been under constant scrutiny over the past year, with negative headlines calling out everything from creepy data practices to election interference. Parents may become concerned with their teenager’s obsession with social media, which prompted Instagram to publish a guide for understanding and talking about its platform.
According to the survey, parents have good reason to be alarmed—54 percent agreed with the statement, “If parents knew what actually happens on social media, they’d be a lot more worried about it.”