Letting Teens Spend Time On Social Media Could Be A Good Idea, Says A New Poll

There’s still hope for in-person communication, too.

Over the last decade, social media has become an undeniable fixture for most teenagers. From Facebook and Twitter, to Snapchat and Instagram, these outlets foster connections across the globe. However, in recent years, social media has become consumed by a cloud of negativity, as teens often take to these networks to cyberbully their peers. But, according to one new poll, teens might benefit from social media usage more than previously thought.

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Conducted by Common Sense Media, researchers surveyed 1,141 13- to-17-year-olds across the country to determine how teens interact with social media, and how said networks subsequently impact their social and emotional wellness. Although the study indicates that teens still spend an excessive amount of time on their smartphones, these teens also claim social media has a positive effect on their lives, as it helps them feel more confident, less lonely, and less depressed.

According to the San Francisco-based nonprofit group — which focuses on kids' use of media and technology — 59 percent of those teens polled said social media makes no difference in how depressed they feel, while 29 percent said it makes them feel less depressed and 11 percent said it makes them more depressed. Thirty-nine percent said social media makes them feel less lonely and 13 percent feel more lonely. Researchers also note that 89 percent of teens currently have their own smartphone, up from 41 percent in 2012, when the survey was last conducted.

Interestingly, Facebook no longer dominates teens' social activity, as only 15 percent of teens declared Facebook as their main social network — a drastic drop from 68 percent in 2012. Instead, Snapchat reigns supreme as teens' most popular social media app (44 percent), followed by Instagram (22 percent). However, when it comes to communicating with friends and family, 35 percent prefer texting, up from 33 percent in 2012. Only 32 percent of those polled said talking in person was their preferred form of communication, down from 49 percent among 2012 teens.

Overall, 16 percent of teens use social media "almost constantly," while 19 percent never do. Of those surveyed, almost three-quarters of teens said they believe tech companies manipulate people into spending more time on their devices, and more than half agreed that using social media often distracts them from homework.

Sixty-four percent of teens said they come across racist, sexist, homophobic, or other hateful content sometimes or often. Yet, while more than half of those polled said parents worry too much about social media, 46 percent think parents would be a lot more worried if they knew what "actually happens" online. After all, 13 percent of teenagers said they have been cyberbullied, while nearly a quarter have tried to help a person who has been cyberbullied by talking to them or reporting it to an adult.

Unfortunately, cyberbullying will continue to be an issue. As DoSomething.org indicates, nearly 43 percent of kids have been cyberbullied, and 1 in 4 has experienced it more than once. Since the introduction of social media, cyberbullying has become increasingly prevalent, in fact, for 81 percent of young people believe it's easier to get away with bullying online than bullying in person. Thankfully, however, these new statistics emphasize that many teens have been able to extract the good despite the bad, which could be the harbinger of positive interactions to come.

(H/T: Time)

Cover image: InLite Studio / Shutterstock.com

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