Teens say social media is more positive than you think. here’s why


Teenagers enter chat on social networks.

Adults often stress the anxiety, self-esteem issues and social comparisons teens may encounter on social media, but a new study asks teens what they really experience online and how they see it in their life.

“One of the things we really want to do with this larger work is bring the voices of adolescents into the debate,” said the report’s lead author, Monica Anderson, the team’s associate director of research. Internet and Technology from the Pew Research Center. “This work really wants to shine a light: teens get both positives from social media, but they also get negatives.”

Researchers from the Pew Research Center surveyed 1,316 teenagers across the United States aged 13 to 17 from mid-April to early May. Young people were asked about their thoughts, feelings and use of social media.

“When it comes to new and emerging technologies, teens are often at the forefront of tech adoption,” Anderson said.

One of the themes of the survey results: teens view their social media experience as more positive than adults imagine.

Only 27% said their experience was even worse than their parents thought – the rest said it was about right or better, according to the survey.

It makes sense that adults’ perspectives are skewed, said Michelle Icard, parent educator and speaker and author of “Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen: The Essential Conversations You Need to Have With Your Kids Before They Start High School.”

“Handing off negative experiences with social media to parents is one of the ways tweens and teens cope,” she said via email. “Often our children report what went wrong with their day, in person or online, but they forget to come back and let us know when their issues have resolved themselves or stopped hurting. parents worry long after kids ignore something.

Teens who responded to the survey said the good things they get from social media include feeling connected and being supported by a community.

A total of 80% said social media gave them some level of connection to what was happening in their friends’ lives, 71% said it was a place where they could show off their creativity, 67% said said social media reassures them that they have people to talk to. supporting them through difficult times, and 58% said it made them feel more accepted, according to the survey.

Black and Hispanic teens were more likely than their white counterparts to report feeling more accepted through social media, the data shows.

Especially during the pandemic, the children Icard worked with were grateful to still be able to connect with each other, she said. And if nurtured in the right way, Icard saw social media as a great way to showcase talent and humor.

And teenagers tend to use it that way, according to the data. According to the survey, the top three things teens said they posted about were their accomplishments, their family and their emotions.

Survey participants were more likely to say social media is mostly positive or neutral for them personally, but instead leaned in a negative direction when it comes to its impact on people their own age, the survey found.

“People might see a lot of upsides from technology and in this case social media,” Anderson said, “but are much more likely to see downsides when looking at social media as a whole.”

This survey can be useful for gaining insight into social media and teens, but there are still individual circumstances and downsides to consider, Icard said.

For example, girls aged 15 to 17 were more likely than any other group to say they don’t post things on social media because they’re worried about being embarrassed, the survey found.

And girls more than boys were more likely to report feeling overwhelmed by drama on social media, the study found.

But all groups recognized drawbacks. Those who reported negative experiences primarily attributed them to screen time, mental health and the impact of online drama, according to the survey.

And 60% of all teens report feeling little or no control over the data social media companies collect from them.

“Social media is a tool and as such it is neither all good nor all bad,” Icard said.

“You know your child’s temperament, social life and experiences best,” she said over email. “However the majority of children report, your decision must first consider your child’s unique circumstances.”

So how do you optimize the experience for yourself or your child?

Icard recommended slow exposure, allowing children to join one social media app at a time and only grow when they demonstrate sufficient responsibility to use them without hurting their self-esteem.

“I also think parents should teach their kids about app etiquette as well as safety,” Icard said, “and they should watch more at first and then (decrease) over time.”

Have frequent conversations about what is happening on these platforms. While you can give more autonomy over time, “a child who doesn’t want to discuss their experiences on the app may not be ready for one,” she added.

Don’t start panicking about having a teen on social media, because the experience comes with ups and downs, like any other part of life, Icard said.

“But if parents notice that social media is creating feelings that harm their teen’s self-esteem,” she added, “it would be appropriate to see a therapist who can help them form habits and a more positive self-talk”.


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