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Teens are Divided on the Impact of Social Media


Social media plays a big part in the lives of most teens, and that influence has the potential to be positive or negative. For example, some research has linked prolonged social media use with symptoms of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Social media may lessen face-to-face relationships or participation in meaningful activities or harm self-esteem. Other research, however, suggests social media may have a positive impact, for example through increased social support.

The Pew Research Center recently conducted a study looking at teens’ (ages 13-17) perspective on the role and impact of social media in their lives. Overall the study found teens are split: 31 percent said social media has a mostly positive effect, 24 percent said it has a mostly negative effect and 45 percent said neither a positive or negative effect.

Nearly all teens, 95 percent, have access to a smartphone and nearly half, 45 percent, say they are online almost constantly, according to the Pew survey. Their online platforms of choice have shifted over the past few years from Facebook to YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.


Online bullying is clearly one of the concerns that has drawn media attention in recent years and has been identified in connection with teen suicides. That concern was reflected in the teens’ response with bullying and rumor spreading being the number one reason teens gave for social media’s negative influence.

Those viewing social media more positively tended to focus on connection with others—keeping in touch and interacting with family and friends and connecting with new people.

Among those who said it was mostly positive, the top reasons were

  • Connecting with friends/family
  • Easier to find news/info
  • Meeting others w/same interests
  • Keeps you entertained/upbeat

Among those who said it is mostly negative, the top reasons were

  • Bullying/rumor spreading
  • Harms relationships/lack of in-person contact
  • Unrealistic views of others’ lives
  • Causes distractions/addiction

In separate surveys, Pew also looked at opinions of adults overall and experts. The majority of American adults continue to believe that the internet has been a good thing for society, according to the Pew Research Center. But a recent poll shows that a growing percent of US adults see the internet as a mix of good and bad (up 6 percent since 2014).

The Pew Center also asked experts (technology experts, scholars and health specialists) their opinions about the impact of changes in digital life on people’s overall well-being physically and mentally. Nearly half (47 percent) said they thought the impact would be positive, but nearly a third (32 percent) said they thought people would be more harmed than helped. About 20 percent predicted no change.

References and Resources


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