I’m afraid to admit this for fear of backlash, but I let my 14-year-old have an Instagram account. I understand other parents’ concerns, I really do. We’ve all heard that social media leads to too much drama. It pressures kids to present a perfect image of themselves. Who wouldn’t want to protect their kids from that?
Social Media Benefits for Teens
I certainly do, but the reason I let my daughter have an account is the same reason why I spend time on social media. Social media enables me to connect with a lot of different people. I can stay up to date on what’s going on in many of my friends’ lives in a way I just couldn’t do otherwise.
A survey conducted this past spring by the Pew Research Center confirmed that teens ages 13-17 are using social media in a similar way. The survey reports teens are much more likely to talk about social media in positive terms, such as the benefits it provides, than in negative terms of the stress it creates. While slightly less than half of the teens surveyed said they’ve felt overwhelmed by social media drama, only 13 percent said they felt that way “a lot.”
Pew Social Media Usage Survey
Some other highlights of the Pew Research Center survey:
- 81 percent of teens surveyed said that social media makes them feel more connected to their peers
- Nearly 70 percent said social media helps them feel like they have support when they need it
- 71 percent reported they felt more included by using social media. Only 25 percent said using social media made them feel excluded
- 69 percent said they feel more confident as a result of social media, while 26 percent said social media made them feel less confident
The social media study also helps alleviate the parental fear that kids who have access to social media will post inappropriate pictures or highly personal details. The survey found that half of teens never or rarely post selfies. In general, teens are much more likely to post about their accomplishments or family lives. Only about one in ten teens say they post about their personal problems or religious or political beliefs.
Is that only what they admit to posting when they are really hiding inappropriate posts from their parents? Maybe, but it isn’t happening as often as parents might think. Only one in ten teens regularly restricts posts so their parents won’t see them.
The concern many parents have that online interaction is taking the place of in-person interaction is not completely unfounded: About 60 percent of teens said they spend time interacting with their friends online every day. Only 24 percent say they interact face-to-face every day.
The Upsides of Social Media
But don’t be too quick to blame social media. Around 75 percent of teens reported that either they or their friends were just too busy for more frequent in-person interactions. Perhaps kids aren’t interacting as much in person because their schedules are too full with homework and activities. In that case, social media helps them stay connected when they might not otherwise have time to interact.
For teens, living in the digital age does have its challenges. But for the most part, they are extensions of the social issues that are a part of adolescent life. Social media may intensify the drama and pressures teens face, but it can also provide benefits, from helping them stay connected to enabling them to find communities where they feel accepted.