Social Media Use by Age
Around seven out of 10 people report using social media for connection, news and entertainment. Social media use has grown dramatically, and the user base has gotten younger over time.
- Facebook: Only 3.9% of users are ages 13-17.
- Instagram: Teens 13-17 make up 8.5% of registered users. But 11% of parents say their 9 -11-year-olds use their accounts and 67% of teens report using Instagram.
- Twitter: Twitter’s largest demographic is 25-34 year olds, at 38.5%.
- YouTube: Most YouTube account holders are 25-34, but 95% of teens report using it.
- WhatsApp: Around 30% of Americans have an account, and 27% are 35-44 years old.
- Snapchat: Users 15-25 make up 48% of its audience, but 59% of teens report using it.
- TikTok: Most teens (67%) say they use TikTok.
Today, 97% of teens say they use the internet daily. The number of teens who say they are online “almost constantly” has roughly doubled over the last ten years to 46%.
Teens make up the largest audiences on some social media platforms. Surveys find teens say it would be “somewhat difficult” to give up social media, and 54% say they “spend too much time” on their devices.
Self-Harm and Teen Suicide Statistics
Suicide rates for teens and young adults are rising. Although some suspect a link between social media use and suicide, there is currently not enough evidence to definitively confirm it as a proven factor.
Studies find that youth who self-harm or are experiencing suicidal ideation often use social media apps to find social support. Social media can increase exposure to negative messaging, however, that may promote self-harm.
- Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for ages 10-24.
- From 2010-2020, suicidal thoughts among youth increased 40%.
- Approximately one in 53 high schoolers report a suicide attempt needing medical treatment.
- For each youth suicide death, there may be as many as 100-200 suicide attempts.
Teens and young adults can be vulnerable to suicidal ideation. The isolation of the pandemic further exacerbated social disconnection, though in a Pew Research study 80% of teens reported social media helped them strengthen friendships and find support.
Researchers are exploring both potential social media harm and supportive influences of social media on suicidal behavior. The relationship remains unclear, though suicide prevention campaigns have successfully improved knowledge, awareness and attitudes. Social media can be an effective platform for these campaigns.
Social Media and Anxiety Among Youth
Anxiety can make it hard for adolescents to go to school or participate in activities. While 39% of the teens Pew surveyed say their social media experiences are better than their parents think, parents say they have concerns.
Parents worry about anxiety or depression (28%) and lower self-esteem (27%). They also worry that social media leads their teen to feel pressured to act in a certain way (32%) or could be bullied (29%).
- Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder among adolescents.
- One in six young people will experience an anxiety disorder at some point.
- Rates of anxiety have increased 70% over the last 25 years.
- The pandemic triggered an increase in anxiety worldwide.
In one study, adolescents who received fewer “likes” or positive feedback felt more strongly rejected and reported more negative thoughts about themselves. While some studies have suggested heavy social media use might exacerbate anxiety, an eight-year study found the amount of time spent on social media isn’t directly increasing anxiety in teens.
Depression Rates Among Social Media Users
While 38% of teens said they can feel overwhelmed with the drama on social media, 32% said they’ve had mostly positive experiences. With insufficient conclusive evidence of a direct correlation between social media and depression, experts call for further research and examinations of other contributing factors.
- Depression rates rose 70% over the last 25 years; nearly one in 10 reported depression.
- An estimated 4.1 million adolescents 12 -17 had at least one major depressive episode.
- The pandemic reportedly triggered a 25% increase in depression worldwide.
Multiple stress factors, such as the pandemic, climate change, mass violence, political polarization and factors closer to home may play a significant role in anxiety and depression in teens. Financial worries and physical or emotional abuse are just as likely to be causes of rising rates of depression.
Body Image and Eating Disorders
There is a complex relationship between social comparison on social media and eating disorders, which are both medical and mental health conditions. Platforms such as Instagram can be saturated with hyper-idealized and sometimes highly edited images.
Some research has found an association between the frequency of comparing one’s own physical appearance to others on social media and body dissatisfaction. One study suggested that teenagers’ widespread use of social media could put them at risk of eating disorders, particularly if they’re already vulnerable to body dysmorphia.
- An estimated 20 million women and 10 million men will have an eating disorder at some point.
- Half of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies, which grows to 80% by 17.
- Around 25% of boys were concerned about muscularity and leanness.
- Of young men with a BMI of at least 25, 15% report engaging in disordered eating behaviors.
Researchers in one study of adult women found that exposure to body-positive social media content resulted in greater body appreciation and satisfaction levels than exposure to idealized body types. There is initial support for the potential for body-positive social media content to increase body satisfaction. More research is needed to fully understand how different types of social media experiences impact body image.
Social Media Addiction
Our reliance on technology continues to increase over time. Smartphones and mobile applications are meant to increase efficiency, connection and engagement. Social media use is also growing, particularly in certain age groups.
- In a survey of those aged 18 - 22, 40% stated they are "somewhat addicted" to social media.
- Although teens 13 - 18 average 3 hours per day, some spend up to 9 hours on social media.
- Psychologists estimate that as many as 5 - 10% of Americans meet the criteria for social media addiction.
Most people check their social media for entertainment, information gathering or to connect or engage with others. Most people’s use of social media isn’t problematic, but a small percentage of users engage in compulsive use, which impacts the dopamine-producing areas of the brain. Plaintiffs have recently filed social media lawsuits alleging social platforms cause harm, such as mental health disorders.
How to Prevent Social Media Harm
Teens use social media to connect with peers as they develop their sense of self, which can be beneficial. However, problems can arise when teens use social media to compare themselves to others.
Parents can take simple steps to protect children from social media harm. These steps can include open dialog, setting boundaries and practicing screen hygiene.
41 Cited Research Articles
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