Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Adults fear the impact of social media on their teenage children, causing them anxiety and questioning self-esteem, in addition to the social comparisons they may be exposed to. But a new study asked teens about what they experience online and how it affects their lives.
“One of the things we really want to do with this cross-cutting work is to bring teens’ own voices into the conversation,” said the report’s lead author Monica Anderson, associate director of research in the Internet and Technology team at the Pew Research Center.
“This work really wants to highlight what both the pros and cons of social media are for teens.”
Researchers at the Pew Research Center surveyed 1,316 teens across the United States, ages 13 to 17, between mid-April and early May. He asked the young people questions about their thoughts, feelings, and use of social media.
“When it comes to new and emerging technology, teens are often at the forefront of technology adoption,” Anderson explained.
One of the themes of the survey results revealed that teens perceive their experience on social media as more positive than what adults imagine.
Only 27% of them said that their experience was worse than what their parents thought, while the rest thought that their experience was either good or better, according to the survey.
It makes sense that adult views can be inaccurate, said Michelle Eckard, parenting educator, lecturer and author of Fourteen Talks by 14: The Essential Conversations You Need to Have with Your Kids Before They Enter Secondary School.
Speaking to CNN, she explained, “Communicating their negative experiences with social media to parents is one way that older children and teens cope.” “Often, our children talk about what went wrong with them during their day, in person or online, but they forget to tell us when their problems have been resolved or they have stopped feeling pain. Therefore, parents live with anxiety for a long time after children ignore updates.”
The teens who participated in the survey reported that the good things social media does for them include feeling connected and getting support from the community.
Overall, 80% of respondents said that social media gives them some level of insight into what is going on in their friends’ lives, 71% saw it as a place where they can show their creativity, and 67% of them believe that social media reassures them that someone will support them. In difficult times, 58% feel that these platforms make them more acceptable to others, according to the survey.
The data showed that Hispanic and dark-skinned teens felt more accepted than their white counterparts because of social media.
She said the children Eckard worked with were grateful, especially during the pandemic, that they were still able to relate to each other. If encouraged in the right way, Eckard saw social media as a good way to showcase talent and humour.
The data showed that adolescents tend to use these methods in this way. According to the survey, the top three things teens report in publication are: their accomplishments, their families, and their emotions.
Respondents tended to say that social media was mostly positive or neutral for them personally, but they tended to be more negative when it came to its impact on people their age, according to the survey.
“People may see a lot of benefits from technology and social media in this case, but the negative aspects are outweighed when viewed as a whole,” Anderson said.
Eckard believes that this survey may be useful in terms of obtaining an overview of social media and adolescents, but there are still individual circumstances and drawbacks that must be taken into account.
For example, girls ages 15 to 17 said, more than any other group, that they don’t post things on social media because they worry about being embarrassed, according to the survey.
The study found that more girls than boys reported feeling overwhelmed by drama on social media.
But all groups acknowledged the negative aspects. The survey revealed that those who reported negative experiences attributed it mostly to screen time, mental health, and the impact of online drama.
And 60% of all teens say they feel little or no control over the data social media companies collect from them.
“Social media is a tool, and as such, it’s not all good and not all bad,” Eckard explained.
In her interview with CNN, she concluded that parents are “the best at knowing their child’s mood, social life and experiences.” And she continued, “No matter how different the way the children tell what happened with them, you must take into account the situation of Alfred’s child first before making your decision.”
How to improve the experience
How can this experience improve for you and your child later on?
Eckard recommended that children be introduced to one social media application slowly but not expand until they show enough responsibility to use it without hurting their feelings of self.
Eckard said: “I also believe that parents should teach their children the etiquette of using applications in addition to safety standards, and they should monitor their performance at the beginning, provided that this decreases over time.”
She also recommended having frequent conversations about what they are experiencing on these platforms. She added that while you can give more autonomy over time, “a child who doesn’t want to discuss their experiences on an app may not be ready for that.”
And she concluded, “If parents notice that social media causes feelings that are harmful to their teen’s sense of self, it would be appropriate to consult with a therapist who can help with more self-dialogues and positive habits.”