With widespread and dubious—not to mention the advent of Twitter—you might expect today’s teenagers to view social media as a cesspool. But a study released today by the Pew Research Center paints a much less dire picture of how today’s teenagers perceive the impact of social media on their lives.
The Pew Research Center surveyed 1,316 American teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 between April 14 and May 4, 2022. Like in 2018, teenagers reported a more nuanced — and often rosier — experience than adults who grew up in the pre-social media era. can be expected
Eighty percent of teens surveyed say that what they view on social media makes them feel more connected to their friends’ lives, while 71 percent report that it gives them a chance to express their creativity. Sixty-seven percent said it connects them with people who support them during difficult times, while fewer — 58 percent — say it makes them feel more accepted.
Most teens describe social media as a mostly neutral experience, with 59 percent saying it has neither a positive nor a negative effect on them. However, it is more positive than negative, with more teenagers saying it was more favorable (32 percent) than unfavorable (nine percent).
However, some interviewed teenagers expressed concern. Thirty-eight percent said they felt overwhelmed by the daily drama on the platforms, while one-third said they felt left out by their friends. Another 29 percent report pressure to post content that gets a lot of likes or comments, and 23 percent describe social media apps as making their lives worse. as As reported in 2021, Meta knew its product was making teenage girls feel worse about themselves — and continued to downplay it.
Online privacy is the current climate, and teens don’t report high levels of confidence or concern about social media companies collecting their data. Sixty percent of teens say they have little or no control over how companies collect and use their data. However, only 20 percent reported feeling very or extremely concerned about data collection. More than twice as many (44 percent) describe having little or no concern about how much social media companies like TikTok and Meta know about them.
Only one in ten teenagers surveyed say they use social media to encourage political action or post about social issues. An even smaller percentage (seven percent) reported posting hashtags related to political or social causes. (The simplest explanation for this may be not being old enough to vote.) However, among those who participated in political action, the rate was more than double among Democratic or left-leaning teens (14 percent) compared to Republican or right-leaning teens (six percent ). interest).
Teenage girls report feeling overwhelmed more often than their male counterparts: 45 percent to about one-third. Higher rates of girls also responded that social media made them feel left out. Older girls express more caution about posting content that others could use against them, with half of 15- to 17-year-old girls saying they often or sometimes choose not to post content because of fear of embarrassment. Lower scores for younger girls and teenage boys report the same.
Self-report surveys can illustrate respondents’ perceptions of how social media affects them. And yet it would be a mistake to believe that it always reflects reality. The past, which focused more on measurable effects, concluded that it depends primarily on how you use it. For example, those who use social media to connect with others benefit more than those who passively read content.
One issue the survey did not address is the number of teenagers using social media. Although Gen Z, which includes the majority of today’s teenagers, still uses social media heavily, it is the only generation that is decreasing its use. Perhaps the rise of social media has led to generational indifference.
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