Commentary

Teens Use Social Media, But Don't Love It

If you are an old person like me (18+) you probably hold a rather stereotypical notion of teenagers as completely besotted with social media -- helpless without it, so addicted they can’t turn their gaze away from their smartphones for even a second with experiencing FOMO. And this stereotype may be true to some degree, but it would be a mistake to think activity actually equals affinity.

That’s according to a new survey by Common Sense Media, which polled 2,658 kids ages eight to 18 about their media usage in February and March of this year, and discovered widespread ambivalence about social media among its most avid users.

There’s no question teens are spending a lot of time on social media: 45% of teens said they use social media “every day,” spending an average of one hour and 11 minutes per day on social. Tweens were more moderate, with 10% using social media every day, spending an average 16 minutes per day.

However social media lagged behind other options when tweens and teens were asked what activities they consider their favorite: for tweens, 22% said they liked playing video games best, followed by reading (16%), watching TV (13%), listening to music (10%), watching online videos (10%), and playing mobile games (8%) -- meaning social media didn’t even make the top five. For teens, listening to music came in first place at 30%, followed by video games (15%), reading (10%), and then social media (10%).

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Furthermore only a minority of tweens and teens said they enjoy using social media “a lot,” with 13% of tweens and 36% of teens conferring this accolade. For teens, that compares to 73% who said they enjoy listening to music a lot, 45% for watching TV, 45% for watching online videos, and 42% for playing video games.

It’s worth noting there’s a considerable gender gap in attitudes towards social media, with 44% of teen girls saying they enjoy social media a lot, compared to 29% for boys. That compares to 80% of girls who say they enjoy listening to music a lot, and 62% of boys who say they enjoy video games.

Overall 32% of tweens and 54% of teens spend six hours a day or more with media, Common Sense Media found, with a total average media usage of six hours per day for tweens and nine hours for teens. 37% of tweens and 57% of teens spend four hours a day or more with screen media in particular, with mobile accounting for 41% of total screen time for tweens and 46% for teens.

1 comment about "Teens Use Social Media, But Don't Love It".
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  1. Rajesh Chandrashekaran from Fairleigh Dickinson University, November 3, 2015 at 3:30 p.m.

    Is it possible that they do not perceive using Social media as an "activity"? That might explain why, when asked about their favorite things to do, they do not mention it right up front. Social media is part of their lives...it's not just an activity to be engaged in. 

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