The Pew Research Center’s latest report indicates a significant trend among teenagers, with about 20 per cent of them engaging almost non-stop on platforms like YouTube and TikTok. This insight is particularly relevant in light of the ongoing debate about the mental health effects of extensive social media use among the youth.
In a survey of 1,453 teenagers aged between 13 and 17, it was found that internet usage has not only remained consistently high compared to last year but has also seen a notable increase from the 2014-2015 figures. About half of the surveyed teens reported using the internet almost constantly, a marked rise from 24 per cent in the previous survey. YouTube continues to be the dominant social media channel among teens, with a 90 per cent usage rate and 71 per cent accessing it daily. TikTok (63 per cent), Snapchat (60 per cent), and Instagram (59 per cent) are also popular, whereas Facebook (33 per cent) and Twitter (20 per cent) are experiencing a decline in usage.
Pew’s survey also included BeReal, an app encouraging real-time photo sharing, for the first time, revealing that 13 per cent of teens are using it. According to a separate Gallup survey, teenagers spend an average of 4.8 hours per day on social media, with older teens and girls being the most frequent users.
The conversation around teenagers’ social media usage often revolves around concerns like cyberbullying, harassment, and the risk of promoting eating disorders and self-harm. The U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, has highlighted the potential threats to children’s mental health from social media, including sleep disruption and suicidal ideation. Despite these concerns, many teenagers feel that social media has a positive impact on their lives, offering entertainment and reducing feelings of isolation.
In response to the growing integration of social media in adolescents’ lives, initiatives like Boston Children’s Hospital’s Digital Wellness Lab are working to make online spaces safer for young users. The lab’s “Inspired Internet Pledge,” signed by companies like Pinterest and TikTok, is part of this effort.
The Pew report also delved into the variations in social media use among teens based on gender, race, age, and household income, highlighting the diverse ways in which different groups interact with technology. This report contrasts the modern, tech-centric lifestyle of teenagers with more traditional activities such as reading books and watching TV.