Social Media at a High Level
We set out to get to the bottom of social media and what we need to know about it for our kids. With so many provocative headlines warning parents about the dangers of social media alongside others extolling its benefits, it’s no wonder we have whiplash.
Our Heard It From A Friend team took the social media challenge, diving into dozens of studies, from Common Sense Media’s to Pew Research’s latest, to get at the facts. We’ve cut through all the data and statistics to serve up what Our Friends are asking in short form. From ‘How Social Media is Changing Teen Culture,’ to ‘What are the Major Concerns?’ and ‘What’s the Right Amount of Time?,’ we’ve delved into the full spectrum of issues. All sources are cited in Gold Star Articles at the end, and in Our Collection, you’ll find articles that we’ve handpicked that provide further color.
Once you’ve completed this roadmap, you’ll have a better understanding of the issues surrounding social media and how to navigate both the perks and the pitfalls. Next turn to Our ‘Parenting Technology Toolkit‘ to zero in on effective strategies for managing social media for your teens, and Our Guides to implement them. We’re here to help to any point if you’re part of Our Inner Circle–you can always just text us!
With best wishes,
Julie Paul, Founder
The Key Takeaways
Teens now prefer texting to spending time together in-person.
- 35% of teens would rather text their friends versus 32% who would rather spend time together in-person
All the major social platforms have built-in messaging functionality, which is playing an increasing role in how teens use social media. Teens are now spending more time on these platforms interacting with their friends, and their messaging activity is difficult for parents to monitor.
The evidence shows that social media use can increase social connection up to a point.
Healthy social media use is directly tied to the:
- Amount of time spent; happy teens max out at 35 minutes on YouTube and Instagram, and 32 minutes on SnapChat
- Number of platforms used; happy users are active on no more than two platforms
Our youth today is ‘The Loneliest Generation.’ The big question is, “Why?”
Experts cite two main hypotheses behind this:
- Constant busyness, a byproduct of our achievement-oriented culture, is interfering with our youth’s ability to build meaningful relationships
- Screen time is the most likely culprit behind the decline in the well-being of our youth, as it can interfere with sleep, create isolation as well as the pressure to keep up with expectations for posting, liking, commenting and sharing
Until more definitive research is available, parents are well-advised to be mindful of both.
The downside risks of social media are increased for teens who are:
- Uncomfortable with their social standing
- Inclined toward social comparison
- Heavy users (defined as more than two hours per day)
- Frequent posters of selfies as body image awareness images can arise
- Struggling with existing mental health issues
Even for teens with low social-emotional well-being, social media has both positives and negatives.
These teens are:
- 3x more likely to say that social media makes them feel less depressed and less lonely
- More at risk for cyberbullying and feeling excluded
Social media often interferes with sleep, which is a major component of health and well-being.
- 26% of teens rarely put their phones away at bedtime and 20% check their phones in the middle of the night
- Teens have a hard time shutting it off, and the blue light exposure from the phone further delays sleep
Other trends parents should be aware of:
- Cyberbullying is on the decline, but exposure to hate speech is on the rise
- 1 in 4 teens receive inappropriate text messages
- Pornography is easily accessible on YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat
‘Parenting Technology’ is much easier when parents take the time to institute a Family Agreement.
The benefits of a Family Agreement (found in Best Tools) include:
- Setting boundaries around when teens can use social media, how many platforms they can use, and what’s the right amount of time
- Making sure you’ve discussed what’s appropriate to share and what to do if something happens that makes your teen uncomfortable
- Voicing your concerns and collaborating with your teen to come up with guidelines that work for your family
Current Statistics on Social Media
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, prohibits social media sites from collecting personal data from children under 13 without parental consent. Instead of fulfilling the onerous requirements to obtain parental consent, social media companies elected to set 13 as the minimum age to use their platforms.
While it’s not illegal for children under 13 to use social media, there are the privacy and appropriate use concerns to consider. According to child psychologists, children under 12 are typically not developmentally ready to handle the complexities that arise with social media from posting etiquette and oversharing, to analyzing truth and validity.
A child’s readiness depends on his or her level of maturity and how prepared he or she is to handle the responsibility. Parents are well-advised to educate themselves and their children on the potential issues and be prepared to regularly engage with their children to discuss social media use. See our Best Practices for Social Media.
- Amount of time spent on each SM platform should limited and can boost connection up to a point – The Economist
- HEAVY Users → more than 2 hours /day – Sampasa-Kanyinga, Lewis RF, NCBI
- No more than 2 platforms – Sampasa-Kanyinga, Lewis RF, NCBI
- kids who struggle socially are inclined toward comparison and Comparison is associated with Depressive Symptoms – Brian A.Primack and co- authors, Science Direct
- Sleep tied to mental health and well-being – Yasmin Anwar, Berkeley News
- Social media cuts in to sleep – Mia De Graaf, Daily Mail
- Sleep tied to mental health and well-being – Harry Kimball, Child Mind Institute
- 70% of teens don’t get enough sleep and ties to mental health and well-being – Maanvi Singh, NPR
- Overview of Social Media – Caring For Kids
- 80% of teens have their on social media accounts and get their first account at 12.6 years of age – Jaqueline Howard, CNN
- 76% of teens say SM is mostly positive to neutral and 70% use more than 1 platform: Pew 2018 study -Monica Anderson, Jinjing Jiang, Pew Research Center
- 57% of teens have made a new friend online and 20% of that group met in-person – Amanda Lenhart, Pew Research Center
- 4% of children are at risk for being targeted by an online predator and children ages 13-15 are the most vulnerable – Crime Against Children Research Center
- Cyberbullying: 13%, 8% serious, and 10% report – Common Sense Media
- 27% of teens have received a sext and 14% have sent 1 – ABC Eyewitness News
- Sexting stats– Lisa Damour, The New York Times
- The most plausible cause of well being decline in youth is screentime– Alex Fradera, The British Psychological Society
- The constant busyness is to blame – Rachel Simmons, The Washington Post
If you’re in need of a primer, here’s what Social Media means today:
These are your child’s posts – what they choose to share in their online world. Posts and Feeds are ‘permanent’ whereas Stories disappear within 24 hours.
They can see all of your child’s online activity and social connections. They can also initiate contact with your child directly unless otherwise blocked.
Teens can message on all the major platforms to stay in regular contact with friends. Snapchat is notorious for its disappearing images.
Some of the major social media apps track users’ locations to help them connect with friends. Snapchat’s feature, Snap Maps, will even allow your child’s friends to track their physical whereabouts on a map.
Find new people to follow and more posts based on your interests through Instagram Explore; use Snapchat Discover to see what your friends are up to and get the latest news.
Teens form private groups with their friends for intimate conversations and join public groups when seeking people with similar interests.
Popular dating apps link to Facebook or Instagram feeds, giving the curious more information.