Having grown up in a world increasingly dominated by social media and mobile devices, teenagers may be developing a healthier, more practical relationship with technology than their elders, who were already adults when the new technology hit.
That’s one takeaway from a new survey of 790 U.S. teens, ages 13-17, conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which found that more than half (58%) of U.S. teens have taken a break from social media, with two-thirds of these or roughly 38% of the total doing so voluntarily.
Additionally, 23% of teens who haven’t taken a break from social media said they would like to. Teens who took involuntary breaks typically did so because their parents confiscated their device or because the device was lost, broken, or stolen.
Among teens who have taken social media breaks, 60% have taken three or more breaks, while 22% have taken two, and 18% have taken one.
More than half of respondents said a typical social media break lasts more than a week, although there is some gender differentiation when it comes to length of time, as 36% of boys reported taking a break lasting more than two weeks, compared to just 22% of girls.
Asked their reasons for taking social media breaks, 38% said social media was interfering with work or school, 24% said they are tired of conflict and drama, and 20% were tired of always trying to keep up with what’s happening.
A smaller proportion, 5%, said they wanted to limit contact with an ex.
Teens who take breaks from social media voluntarily feel more positive about the experience than those who are forced to do so, with 43% saying they had more time to do other things, and 36% feeling “relieved.”
By contrast, 38% of teens who have taken social media breaks against their will reported feeling anxious because they might miss out on something, and 27% reported feeling less connected to their friends and family.
Turning to teens who don’t take social media breaks at all, 56% said they won’t take breaks because they don’t want to miss out, while 44% said social media is how they find out what’s going on in the world.Regardless of whether they take breaks or not, teens are generally positive about social media: 78% said it helps them feel closer to friends, and 40% said the same for family.
Further, 49% said it helps them feel informed. But as the trend of taking breaks indicates, some teens feel there are definite down sides: 15% said they feel like they always have to maintain a perfect image on social media, and 10% said it makes them feel overloaded with information.