Person lying down using their mobile app.

Key Insights from Latest Pew Study on Teens and Social Media

by Screen Time Team on 19/09/2018
Two teenage girls using their mobile phones.

Teens are more ambivalent towards their phones than you might think.

Teens Are Almost All Online

Pew found that 95% of teens at least had access to a smartphone, a 23% jump from four years ago. It also found that 45% of the teens interviewed were connected to the internet, in their words, “almost constantly,” although we should remember this is a value judgment, to some degree. Think about how we use our smartphones as tools to navigate, make plans, and stay connected to work, and most parents might be surprised to consider how much “almost constantly” applies to them. Parents might consider leading by example, to help their kids form a more healthy perspective on the internet.

Teens Are About Visuals

The most popular networks among teens were based around visuals: YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat were far and away the social media networks teens were using the most. It’s worth becoming familiar with these sites, especially if you’re using parental control apps to monitor usage, and even opening an account with them to figure out how they work, and what you might be concerned about.

It’s More Distributed

That said, the idea of teens being on one network exclusively is a thing of the past. Many teens are using multiple networks to stay in touch with friends and share various forms of content. Pew has found these platforms tend to divide up teens’ time to varying degrees, instead of teens making more time in the day for these platforms. That means competition for eyeballs is more intense.

Person lying down using their mobile app.

Connecting is key, but not all teens think connecting is good.

Teens Aren’t Necessary Fans Of Social Media

Intriguingly, Pew found most teens are ambivalent about social media. 45% of teens in the survey said that social media had neither a positive nor negative effect on their lives, while 31% said it had a positive effect, and 24% said it had a negative effect. This lines up with the research elsewhere, which indicates the effect of social media on your emotional state lies mostly in how you use it.

Most interesting was what teens primarily viewed as the benefits and drawbacks. By a wide margin, those who liked social media felt that the ability to stay in touch with friends and family that aren’t nearby, at 40%, was the biggest benefit. Conversely, those who didn’t like it said that bullying was their primary concern, at 27%. Close behind that, at 15% was that it “harms relationships.

In other words, social media can be great for kids if they’re staying in touch with people they know, but teens also seem to feel it can spin out of control quickly. The lesson here for parents is to talk with their kids regularly about what’s happening online, who they’re talking to, and make sure the door is open to help.

Social media, love it or hate it, isn’t going anywhere, and the overall trend, according to Pew, is that it’ll keep growing to be an even bigger part of teens’ lives. For parents, this means being a sympathetic ear and keeping an eye out for signs of negative behavior. To learn more about parental control apps, and how they can help, sign up for Screen Time.

Join the conversation