Teens say social media is good for them

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Although social media has been blamed for making people depressed and lonely and encouraging poor thinking skills, most teens think it’s a good thing.

The majority of teenagers — people ages 13 to 17 years old — associate positive outcomes with social media use, a new survey from Washington, DC, think tank the Pew Research Center found. Some 81 percent of teens say social media makes them feel more connected to friends and 69 percent say it helps them interact with a more diverse group of people. But the effects of social media can be a mixed bag, said Michael Robb, senior director of research at Common Sense Media.

“Social media makes teens feel less lonely and more connected at the same time teens sometimes feel left out and ‘less than’ their peers,” he said. “Social media helps alleviate teens’ depression by connecting them to support and inspiration and also contributes to depression for those who get stuck in a loop of isolation.”

Social media use has never been more pervasive, with 97 percent of teens using at least one of seven major online platforms, according to a previous Pew Research poll. While some studies have shown social media can be isolating, many young people believe it helps them connect with others. Some 60 percent of teens spend time online with friends on a daily basis.

Two-thirds of teens say this helps expose them to greater diversity and makes them more civic-minded, Pew found. Indeed, online activism has taken off in recent years: The March For Our Lives movement, an activist group started by teens affected by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, has amassed 440,000 followers on Twitter and 280,000 followers on Facebook. The #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo hashtags have mobilized millions of online users, including many young people.

But young people admit social media is not all positive: Around four in 10 say they feel pressure to only post content on social media that makes them look good to others (43 percent) or share things that will get a lot of likes or comments (37 percent). The picture-perfect images on social media have also been shown to skew teens’ sense of self and are thought to be linked to a rise in mental health disorders, a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

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