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December/January 2013Vol. 13, No. 11Impact of Social Media on Teens' Well-Being

A report by Common Sense Media's Program for the Study of Children and Media presents data from a quantitative study focused on understanding American teens' perception of social media. The study examined teen perceptions of social media's role in their lives and its effect on their social and emotional well-being. According to the report, 90 percent of American teens use some form of social media.

In early 2012, survey data were gathered from a nationally representative sample of 1,030 13- to 17-year olds to obtain a snapshot of teenage social media use. Survey results were extensive, but four key findings stood out:

  • The vast majority of teenagers in the United States are avid, daily social media users.
  • Teens are more likely to report that using social media has a positive influence on their social and emotional lives than a negative one.
  • Despite social media's pervasiveness, most teens prefer face-to-face communication, and many youth recognize that social media hinders this interaction.
  • A large number of teens expressed a desire to disconnect or "unplug" more often and understand that others close to them feel the same way.

This emerging phenomenon has implications in the child welfare arena. The survey reveals that:

  • Most teens believe that their social networking sites have little impact, positive or negative, on their social and emotional welfare. Approximately 70-80 percent of respondents reported that their use of social media does not generally influence their self-worth, self-confidence, how popular they feel, or their level of empathy felt for others.
  • Fifteen to 30 percent of teens stated that social networking did have a positive effect on their social and emotional well-being—they reported feeling less shy, more outgoing, more self-confident, more popular, more sympathetic to others, and better about themselves.
  • A much smaller percentage of respondents, approximately 5 percent, reported that social media made them feel more depressed, less popular, less confident, and worse about themselves.

Researchers also examined the perceptions of heavy social media users with those of other teens less active in social networking. Overall, both groups of teens reported a high level of social and emotional well-being.

Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives is available on the Common Sense Media website: (2MB)