By Diana Simeon
A new report by the Pew Research Center offers an up-close look at the ways technology is impacting the romantic lives of teenagers.
- About 8 percent of teenagers have met a romantic partner online, typically on social media.
- About 10 percent of teenagers admit to sending “sexy” pictures or videos.
- And most teenagers seem to have gotten the message that breaking up with someone by text message—or status update—is really not cool.
But a highlight of the study—called Teens, Technology, and Romantic Relationships—is what it reveals about social media. The bottom line: social media is a top venue for flirting, say the study’s authors. In fact, about 55 percent of teenagers said they flirted on social media.
What’s Social Media Flirting?
So, what does flirting look like on, say, Instagram or Twitter? Typically, it includes friending or following a crush. Next, liking and otherwise interacting with a crush’s posts or status updates—often frequently.
“When I have a crush on someone and I want them to know, I go on their page and like a lot of pictures in a row,” says a high schooler interviewed by Pew.
Teenagers also send flirtatious messages, including flirtatious photos and videos. They may share funny or interesting content with a crush. Or assemble music playlists (kinda like those mixed tapes we had back in the day).
But while much of this behavior is harmless, even sweet and beneficial, the report also revealed some downsides.
- Social media can help teenagers feel closer to romantic interest. But it can also cause jealousy (much like it can in the non-romantic realm).
- Technology can facilitate controlling behavior. About 30 percent of teenagers with dating experience said a partner “had checked up on them multiple times a day … asking where they were, who they were with or what they were doing,” according to the report.
- And, unfortunately, after a relationship ends, some teenagers may be harassed via technology. About 20 percent of dating teenagers in the study “had a partner use the internet or a cellphone to call them names, put them down or say really mean things to them.”
Diana Simeon is managing editor of Your Teen Magazine.