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Common Sense Media study on how U.S. teenagers view social media

On 26th June 2012 Common Sense Media published its latest survey entitled "Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives" around how U.S teenagers view the impact of social media on their lives. The national survey involved 13-17 year olds and revealed some interesting findings.

We asked Ben, a 15-year old British teenager, to give us his interpretation of the study as well as what he found interesting. Here are his views: 

A teenage view on the recent Common Sense Media research study

My name’s Ben. I found the recent Common Sense media study thoroughly interesting and wanted to share my thoughts and feeling or statistics and many things which I found interesting. There were many things that I found interesting and I would love to share them with you instead of you having to read all 40+ pages of it. I also came across some facts that literally blew my mind as I would’ve never expected those facts to be true. It set me thinking about the whole concept also encouraging me to write about my findings. I hope you also find these facts and statistics interesting.

1.Teens are avid, daily users of social media.

As soon as I read the title I knew that it was going to apply to me as I know that I am definitely a daily user of social media – mainly Facebook. It firstly explained how tons of people from the US use at least one type of social media and eventually went on to some statistics – a few of which I found interesting and pretty shocking. I was no way near surprised about how high the percentages were for the amount of people that use any  type of social media (90%) and the amount of people who text (87%) However, I’m probably not surprised by them because I text and use social media nearly all the time. I was fairly shocked when I saw the statistic that only 2% of people use Twitter, but I am not a regular user of twitter. I use it every now and then but it’s nothing compared to Facebook. I came across the fact that a quarter of people (25%) don’t have a social networking account. I found it hard to believe that it’s the truth as nearly everyone I know has at least Facebook and at least half of them use Twitter. I’m trying to get the jist of it but I don’t really see the point of it

2. Teens are much more likely to report that using social media has a positive impact on their social and emotional lives.

I was surprised by the fact that ‘most kids said that using social media has no effect on their emotional and social life’. I suppose this is mainly because I have had issues that have now been resolved, when using Facebook. I’m glad that 29% of people say that using their type of social media makes them less shy because outgoing people, in my opinion, make the world a more exciting and interesting place. This is a bit of a coincidence as 28% said it made them more outgoing! I think that it is brilliant that a very small amount of people say that using their social networking site or a different type of social media makes them feel worse about themselves. This proves that it can be good for teenagers and young adults to be using social media as, obviously, it has more advantages rather than drawbacks.

3. Most teens prefer face to face communication, and many of them think that social media can interfere with that.

I found this section fairly interesting as I am one of the teenagers that actually like both face-to-face and interaction through social media like Facebook so I was keen to know their reasons for what they think. And funnily enough I do agree with the reasons people gave to ‘common sense Media’ about why they think this. 38% said they believe this is because face-to-face interaction is more fun and more clear when talking, 28%. The main reason why people think that texting is the best way to communicate is because they think that it is quick (30%). I agree with these people – 16% think it gives them more time to think about how to respond. This is always useful when you’re in tough or awkward situations.

4. Some people wish they could disconnect more often – and that the people around them would too.

This section was one where I agreed with the whole thing. I, quite often, get the feeling of wanting to ‘un-plug’ from Facebook and it is usually when someone is being nasty to someone else, there’s racism, or people being homophobic to certain people. It upsets me how people still act in these juvenile ways. I have had times where I have un-plugged, usually for not longer than a week max, because of people being nasty. In their report they found that 31% of teens (who are users of social media) want to switch off from time-to-time. Also those teens who say they would want to switch off say it’s because of seeing/being involved in racism (32%), sexism (32%) and then 31% say they switch off because of people being homophobic. As it says in the report ‘these negative experiences may be fuelling the desire to unplug’. I strongly agree with that statement and the evidence is all around us as these sorts of scenarios are happening all the time.

5. Face-to-Face communication.

Even though teens love to communicate via social media, nearly all of them say that face-to-face is their favourite way to communicate with their friends. Some people say that it’s the best way to communicate because it’s ‘REAL’. You can get the feeling of the conversation and it means you can understand the person(s) you’re talking to because you can hear their tone of voice, whereas, using social media you may have to guess what tone they’re saying it in. Around 49% of teens prefer communicating face-to-face rather than texting (33%), social media (7%), on the phone (talking) [4%] and then finally, using twitter (1%). The main reason for this is because they think it’s more fun (38%) and that you can understand the person better (29%).

Text Messaging.

Let’s just say I am one of those teenagers who are constantly texting where possible; trying to sneak the odd text in when you know you shouldn’t be doing it and one who loves the whole idea of it. I actually don’t know why though. Strange I know! It’s also the most popular way to communicate other than face-to-face and I, in my opinion, can clearly see why. I can’t stop doing it! 87% of teenagers have texted before and 68% of teens do it daily. It is mostly relevant in girls and 77% of all girls that text, text daily. The amount is 60% for boys. They are also more likely to choose texting as their best way to communicate. (39% (Girls) vs. 28% (Boys)). Teens think texting is their favourite way to communicate because: it’s the quickest way to communicate (30%) or it’s the easiest way to communicate (23%).

Social Networking.

I am a teenager who uses social networking a lot. I’ve had Facebook ever since I was old enough and I recently got twitter which I am probably addicted to already. 83% of teens have ever visited a social networking site. I can believe that because nearly everyone I know has either Facebook or Twitter. The amount of people getting twitter is growing too. Three quarters of teens have a current up to date profile on a networking site and Facebook seems to be the most popular; where 68% say it’s their main site. What was interesting is that they found that a lot more black people use twitter as their main site (19%) whereas only 5% of white people say it’s their main site.


This section I found very interesting. Girls are most likely to have a twitter account than boys (33% vs. 22%) I found it amazing how different ethnicities use Twitter a lot more than white people. 49% of black people have ever used Twitter and 27% of Hispanics have used it. Both of them beating the score of white people using Twitter (20%).

Mobile Communication.

I am someone who uses my phone rather a lot. Whether it’s to ‘tweet’, set a new Facebook status, or upload a photo onto either of them. I am using them both often. Nearly every day I’ll use my phone to go on either of them. Two out of three teens have a mobile with the capability to connecting to the internet. I am one of those teens (52%) who have checked their main social networking site through their smartphone and 43% of them use their phone as much as their laptop or pc to use social networking sites. I probably use the computer more than my phone as it’s usually easier and quicker. 82% of teens have their own phone and 41% say they have a smartphone. I know these facts are true and maybe slightly too low for England as all of my friends who have a phone have a smartphone. I only have one friend who doesn’t have a smartphone.

Social Networking and Social-Emotional Well-Being.

Most teens that use social networking say that it doesn’t usually affect their social emotional well-being. Which, in a way, is a good thing for sure. 83% of teens say that using their social networking site doesn’t affect how depressed they are – that’s good, right? To me it is. It means less people have to go through traumatic times which are probably horrible to go through and 76% of teens believe that it doesn’t affect their popularity or their confidence. Luckily, only 5% of social network users say that using social media makes them more depressed. If it was any higher than that it would be affecting too many people. Again, luckily, 87% teens say they’re happy with life, 88% get on with their parents well, 86% do lots of things well and like themselves. 76% think that they have lots of friends and 72% say they find it easy to make new friends.

Social Media and Relationships.

Practically every teen that uses social media says that it makes a positive impact on their relationships rather than a negative one. 54% say it has helped them connect with their family and friends (I am one of those as I do feel that way about them). 88% of teens agree that social media helps them connect with friends they don’t often see; they help them get to know other students from school and that they allow them to connect with people who have the same common interests. 44% say that social media often distracts them from people when they’re with them face-to-face. I’m one of those teens I think. Being rather hypocritical here but it annoys me when my friends use social media when hanging out. But then again, I can’t say much, I use it when I’m with the family and in those sorts of situations! Oh well.

Online Photos.

These days it’s so easy just to take a pic and then put it out there. Nearly everyone does it too. When I check my Facebook my news feed always has loads of pictures that have been uploaded. 59% of teens either partially or strongly agree that they ‘love’ posting pictures on social media sites. With 75% of girls feeling that way compared to 42% of boys. One fact that shocked me, yet I kind of knew it was true, was the fact that even though teens love putting photos online it does take an emotional toll on their feelings. I find it sickening as this proves that some teens feel pressured or forced into uploading pictures of themselves which isn’t right. Also the fact that 17% of people edit photos before they upload them to make themselves ‘look better’. I don’t really like that because no matter how hard we try, no one is perfect and no one ever will be.

Hate Speech Online.

Hate speech is not a rare. I do come across it from time-to-time when on Facebook but it is nearly always dealt with which is good. According to the report, 24% of social media users say they often encounter hate speech being used online. It’s not nice when you see it as the person is usually defenceless or has done nothing wrong and it’s just because of the way they are.

‘Addiction’ and the desire to Unplug.

Many teens would love to do this and I have done in the past. Sometimes it’s great to go back to the times when you were younger when you never knew social media existed. Something I found interesting is that teens are more likely to be addicted to their mobile phone (41%) rather than their main social networking site (20%). Finally the teens who are most likely to want to unplug are the ones who have come across racism, sexism or people being homophobic. I can see where they’re coming from to be honest!