Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 28, 2018) – Teens credit social media with helping them build stronger friendships and exposing them to a more diverse world, but they also express concern that these online platforms lead to drama and social pressure, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

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, 97% of teens use at least one of the seven major online platforms that were queried in the survey.

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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. In each instance, teens are more likely to associate their social media use with generally positive rather than negative feelings. For instance, many more teens indicate that social media makes them feel included rather than excluded (71% vs. 25%), confident rather than insecure (69% vs. 26%), authentic rather than fake (64% vs. 33%) and outgoing rather than reserved (61% vs. 34%).

Young people also believe social media can help teens 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%), find different points of view (67%) or show their support for causes or issues (66%).

At the same time, 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.” A similar share of teens (44%) 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.

This new report is part of a series from the Center that has explored teens’ overall use of technology, the distractions tech devices bring to their lives and their experiences of cyberbullying.

In this report, about half (49%) of teens say they post about their accomplishments on social media. But relatively few – around one-in-ten – report discussing their religious or political beliefs. About four-in-ten (44%) say they post about their family on these sites, while around a third (34%) say they share things related to their emotions and feelings and 22% report 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 cite many reasons for why they do not spend more time with their friends in person, the most common being that they have too many other obligations to find 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 are 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 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 people their age find trustworthy information – and only 7% think these sites help “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.

This nationally representative survey of teens was conducted March 7-April 10, 2018, using the NORC AmeriSpeak panel of randomly selected households. The margin of sampling error for the full sample of 743 teen respondents is plus or minus 5.0 percentage points. Throughout the report, “teens” refers to those ages 13 to 17.

Read the full report: http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/11/28/teens-social-media-habits-and-experiences/

To read the accompanying blog post that looks specifically at teens who say they’re constantly online and how they socialize with friends both online and offline, click here: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/11/28/teens-who-are-constantly-online-are-just-as-likely-to-socialize-with-their-friends-offline/