Facebook, Twitter, Social Media and Teenagers
The rise of social media has transformed the way people around the world communicate, stay in touch, and learn. Much like social revolutions of the past young people such as teenagers are the most likely group to embrace change and pave the way for the future, while the rest of us struggle to keep up to the frantic pace of change. Today’s adolescents will have never know a world without Facebook or Twitter. On the other hand, adults are still playing catch up and reminiscing of simpler times. Social media platform such Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram bring with them exciting possibilities and potential dangers, especially for adolescents. The ability to stay involved in the life of a dear friend who has moved away through Facebook may lessen the emotional blow of having your friend move away. On the other hand, social media has created a new wave of privacy concerns that teens may overlook.
While there is still a lot to learn about the effects of social media on adolescents, a great research study compiled by Common Sense Media gives great insight on the effects of social media on the emotional and mental well-being of teenagers and answers questions both parents and counselors should pay close attention to. To read the full study Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives click here.
First off, the basics…
- How often are teens texting and using Facebook and Twitter?
- What are teenager’s favorite ways to communicate with their friends and family?
- How do teens think these new communications tools are affecting their friendships and family relations, if at all?
- How does social media networking make most teens feel about themselves and their relationships with their peers? Does it make them feel more connected or more isolated? Better about themselves, or more depressed and lonely?
- How do the heaviest social media users compare to other teens in terms of their social and emotional well-being?
What is Facebook?
Of all the social media platforms, Facebook is probably the one you are most familiar with. Many credit Facebook as the catalyst of the social media world we live in today. Facebook allows its registered users to share information about themselves with friends or acquaintances of their choosing. People commonly share their current thoughts through ‘status updates’, their location, pictures and video, and events. You must be at least 13 years old to register for an account and there are arrays of account and privacy settings that let users customize how, what, and with whom they share information. Click here to read Facebook’s tips and tools for parents and educators.
What is Twitter?
Twitter permits it users to communicate and share through “Tweets” or small bursts of information, which are limited to 140 characters. User can share their thoughts, links, photos, videos, news stories, or participate in conversations with friends or about popular topics. Although security settings allow users to choose who they share their Tweets with most Tweets are public information and can be viewed by anyone. Like Facebook, you must be at least 13 years old to open a Twitter account. Click here to read Twitter’s safety tips for parents.
What is Instagram?
What is Pintrest?
Pintrest is a virtual pinboard that allows users to organize, share, and discover just about anything from the internet. Pintrest can be used to find or share recipes, home decoration ideas, and other interests. People can comment or share on what others have pinned. To learn more about Pintrest click here.
Online Security & Tips
For advice and information on protecting your family’s online security go to YourSphere for Parents. This website provides parent specific information on most social media platforms.
Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives
Now, the results from Common Sense Media are in….why is my teen always on his/her phone? Social media is a big reason!
Key Findings among 13 to 17 year olds and Social Media use.
*90% reported having used social media at least once
*75% have a profile on a social networking site
*68% say Facebook is their main social networking site
*51% visit a social networking site at least once a day
*34% visit their main social networking site multiple times a day
*23% are heavy social media users, meaning they use at least two different types of social media each and every day
Take away: Teenagers are avid and daily users of social media.
Perceived Effects of Social Networking on Social & Emotional Well-Being
*More than 25% of teens feel that using social networking sites makes them feel more outgoing and less shy
*Approximately 20% of teens feel that using social networking sites makes them feel more confident, more popular, and more sympathetic to others
*Overall, 15% of teens say that social networking sites make them feel better about themselves
*More than 5% say using social networking sites makes them feel more depressed and less confident
Take away: Teenagers generally feel that social networking contributes to a positive social and emotional well-being.
Impact of Social Networking on Relationships
*52% of teen using social networks believe it mainly helps their relationship with friends, while only 4% stated that it hurts their relationships with friends.
*37% reported that social networking improves relationships with family members but only 8% reported that it helped their relationship with their parents.
Take away: Overall, teenagers feel that using social networking sites improves the majority of their relationships.
What do Teens use Social Networking for?
*88% stated that it helps them keep in touch with friends they can’t see regularly
*69% stated that it helps them get to know other students at their school better
*57% stated that it helps them connect with people who share a common interest
Take away: Teenagers use social media to improve their relationships with peers and find new friends.
Teenager’s Favorite Way to Communicate with Friends?
*49% prefer in person communication because it’s more fun and easier to understand what people mean
*33% prefer texting because it’s the quickest and easiest way to communicate
Take away: Despite heavy use, teenagers still value old fashioned face to face communication.
Teenagers Wishing They Could Go Back to a Time When There was no Facebook
*12% strongly agree
*24% somewhat agree
*33% somewhat disagree
*30% strongly disagree
Take away: The majority of teenagers who wish they could go back to a time without Facebook are most likely to be passive users of social media.
Teenagers Frustrated with how Attached PARENTS are to their Own Mobile Device
*28% of those whose parents have a mobile device say they consider their parents “addicted” to their gadgets
*21% say they wish their parents spent less time with their cell phones and other devices
Take away: Teenagers are not the only demographic that is “addicted” to technology.
The Ugly Side of Social Media
Hate Speech Online
Of the 90% of teens who have used social media at least once, the percentage who often or sometimes encountered each type of content in social media:
Cyber bullying has been in the national spotlight for the past few years. Common forms of cyber bullying include spreading hateful comments about someone and stealing passwords and posting embarrassing information under a false identity. To read more about bullying read my previous blog Bullying and Teenagers by clicking here. YourSphere for Parents also includes information on cyber bullying. http://internet-safety.yoursphere.com/2010/04/cyberbullying-101/
Conclusions of the Study
According to this research study teenagers are avid user of social media and generally use it to improve their relationships with friends, family, and schoolmates. Most teens report that using social media boosts their self-confidence and makes them feel better about themselves. Only a small percentage of teenagers report that using social media makes them feel depressed, isolated, or hurts their existing relationships with friends and family. On the other hand, social media exposes teenagers to hate speech and cyber bullying.
Advice for Parents
Discuss the potential dangers of social media with your teenagers such as bullying, hate speech, and interacting with strangers. Ask you teenager if they take advantage of available security and privacy settings on social media sites. Many of these sites are defaulted to share everything with anyone and leave it to the user to opt out of this setting. As with any other social activity or hobby, moderate the time your teenager spends on social media sites and encourage face to face communication and regular exercise. For more useful tips on regulating your teenager’s habits on social media read How to Protect your Teen on Social Networks: Privacy Tips for Parents by the online security firm TRUSTe.
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By Miguel Brown