Watch teenagers using social media, and you witness an emotional rollercoaster: they are intermittently ecstatic, furious, envious, heartbroken, charmed, anxious, obsessive, and bored.
Research has begun to zero in on nearly every part of this spectrum, with findings that run from alarming (screen time is linked to depression and suicide) to reassuring (many teens find social media empowering). But for those looking for a clear-cut “good or bad” verdict on social media, the reality is that it’s a little of each — but generally a much more positive experience than many parents might think.
A new study finds that teenagers report feeling all kinds of positive and negative emotions when describing the same social media experiences — posting selfies, Snapchatting, browsing videos — but the majority rate their overall experiences as positive.
Understanding these nuances can help families better grasp their teens’ up-and-down experiences in the digital world, the study suggests, offering new insight on how best to support them.
A Study on Adolescent Social Media Use
In the study, adolescent social media expert Emily Weinstein analyzed surveyed responses from 568 high school students at a suburban public high school in the United States. The students, who were evenly split between female and male, were heavier users of social media than the average American teen: 98 percent said that they were online “almost constantly” or “several times a day,” compared to 80 percent of teens nationally. Eighty-seven percent of these students used Instagram, 87 percent used Snapchat, and 76 percent used Facebook.