Research Brings Attention to Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences

(U.S.) – A new study by Pew Research Center confirms many assumptions about social media use by teenagers.

According to a new survey from Pew Research Center, while teens credit social media with helping them build stronger friendships and exposing them to a more diverse world, they also express concern that online platforms lead to drama and social pressure.

In a press release issued by the organization officials note the nationally representative survey of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 finds that 81% say social media makes them feel more connected to what’s going on in their friends’ lives, but 43% say they feel pressure to only post content that makes them look good to others. Overall the survey found 97% of teens use at least one of the seven major online platforms that were queried in the survey.

How Social Media Makes Them Feel

Additionally, the survey found that when teens were presented with four pairs of words and asked to choose the sentiment that most closely matches how they feel when using social media, teens were more likely to associate their social media use with generally positive rather than negative feelings.

  • Social media makes them feel included rather than excluded (71% vs. 25%)
  • Social media makes them feel confident rather than insecure (69% vs. 34%)
  • Social media makes them feel authentic rather than fake (64% vs. 33%)
  • Social media makes them feel outgoing rather than reserved (61% vs. 34%)

Social Media and Being Civically Minded

Young people, according to this survey, also reportedly believe social media can help them become more civically minded and exposes them to greater diversity – either through the people they interact with or the viewpoints they come across.

  • Roughly two-thirds of teens say these sites help people their age interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds (69%)
  • Help them discover different points of view (67%)
  • Allows them to show their support for causes or issues (66%)

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Social Media Drama

However, at the same time, the survey found the online environment for today’s teens can be hostile and drama-filled.

  • Some 45% of teens say they feel overwhelmed by all the drama on social media with 13% saying they feel this way “a lot.”
  • 44% of teens say they often or sometimes unfriend or unfollow others on social media.
  • When asked why they have digitally disconnected from others, 78% of this group report doing so because people created too much drama.

What They Post

  • About half (49%) of teens say they post about their accomplishments on social media.
  • Around one-in-ten – reported discussing religious or political beliefs.
  • About four-in-ten (44%) say they post about their family on their sites.
  • Around a third (34%) say they share things related to their emotions and feelings.
  • 22% reported posting about their dating life.

Other Key Findings

  • Teens are more likely to spend time with their friends online on a daily basis than to do so in person. Six-in-ten teens say they spend time with their friends online every day or almost every day, compared with 24% who spend time with their friends in person with the same frequency (not including school or school-related activities). Teens also cited many reasons for why they do not spend more time with their friends in person with the most common being that they have too many other obligations to find the time (41%).
  • Nearly half (46%) of teens say they at least sometimes spend time in online groups or forums, and the types of forums they gravitate toward tend to vary by gender. Boys ar roughly twice as likely as girls to visit online groups centered around hobbies (54% vs. 29%) or sports (36% vs. 19%). Girls are more likely than boys to visit online groups about fashion (34% vs. 18%) and health and wellness (20% vs. 10%), as well as groups oriented toward people with specific characteristics such as LGBT or people of color (18% vs. 6%).
  • Teens credit online groups with introducing them to new people and making them feel more accepted. Fully 74% of those who participate in online communities, according to this survey, say the groups expose them to new types of people. In addition, majorities also say those communities play a role in making them feel more accepted (68%), helping them figure out how to feel about important issues (65%) and helping them get through tough times (55%).
  • Relatively few teens think of social media platforms as a source of trustworthy information. Overall, 37% of teens think that social media helps “a lot” in that respect.
  • The survey also explored the broad world of teen friendships – both online and offline – and finds that majorities have a close friend of a different gender or different race or ethnicity. Today’s teens are a part of the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history, and this reality is reflected in the fact that six-in-ten teens report having a close friend who is of a different racial or ethnic background than they are. A similar share of teens (61%) identify someone of a different gender as a close friend, and close to half (46%) say they have a close friend of a different religion.

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