A recent survey reveals that, in spite of widespread concerns regarding mental health and well-being, teenagers continue to heavily utilize social media platforms.
Credit: Vicky Leta / Mashable

Even with the growing concern that social media usage could negatively impact teenagers’ mental health, a recent survey by Pew Research Center indicates that teens continue to use major platforms at remarkably high rates—nearly half of the respondents described their usage as “almost constant.”

Carried out this fall, the online survey included 1,453 U.S. teens aged 13 to 17. Interestingly, this was conducted just months after U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a warning stating that social media poses a “profound risk of harm” to young people.

While detailing the findings, the Pew Research Center reported that teens’ engagement with various platforms showed little change compared to the center’s earlier survey in spring 2022 that explored youth social media habits.

It’s worth noting that the survey did not inquire into how teenagers felt about their usage or whether it affected their mental health and overall well-being.

Dr. Laura Erickson-Schroth, the chief medical officer of The Jed Foundation (JED), emphasized the significance of social media platforms for teens, stating that these spaces are where young people build community, explore interests, access news and health information, and navigate stressors while also shaping their identities.

“Young people have a fear of missing out, which is based in reality since so many of their peers are online,” Erickson-Schroth remarked.

She pointed out that expecting teens to be solely responsible for their social media engagement, even if their experiences aren’t uniformly positive, is unrealistic. For those feeling isolated or marginalized, particularly in unsupportive environments, social media can serve as a vital tool to find acceptance and support.

In addition, as teens seek validation and recognition, social media platforms—by encouraging regular posting of content in various forms—capitalize on those needs, making it challenging for young users to disengage.

The Most Popular Social Media Platforms Among Teens

In the Pew Research Center survey, teens showed a clear preference for certain major social media platforms. When asked about their usage frequency on five platforms—YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook—nearly 90% reported using YouTube. Approximately two-thirds stated their use of TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. Notably, this percentage increased to about 70% among 15- to 17-year-olds. On the other hand, the use of Facebook and X/Twitter has noticeably declined over the past decade.

The report unveiled variations based on gender, race, ethnicity, and income. For instance, a higher percentage of teen girls reported almost constant use of TikTok compared to boys. Moreover, more Hispanic and Black teens cited consistent usage of YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok compared to their white peers. Moreover, the prevalence of Facebook and TikTok usage was higher among teens from lower-income households compared to those from higher-income households.

Overall, the Pew Research Center discovered that one-third of teens use at least one of the five platforms almost constantly.

Responsibility for Shaping Teens’ Social Media Use

Erickson-Schroth expressed concern that teens who extensively use social media may be missing out on rich in-person experiences such as socializing with friends and family or enjoying nature.

While teens can play a role in moderating their social media use by reflecting on the impact of their interactions on the platforms, Erickson-Schroth stressed that the primary responsibility for helping teens develop healthier social media habits lies with the companies operating these platforms. She argued that tech and social media companies should take proactive steps to enhance youths’ online experiences, including stringent moderation of harmful content, facilitating access to data for research on youth well-being, and providing better control mechanisms for young users. Erickson-Schroth also advocated for policymakers to establish minimum safety standards for young people online.

As pressure mounts for improved online safety for teens, some social media companies have introduced new safety initiatives. For instance, YouTube has announced limitations on harmful repetitive content for teenagers, such as videos that perpetuate unhealthy body image ideals.

Mental Health
Social Media

Rebecca Ruiz

Rebecca Ruiz

Rebecca Ruiz is a Senior Reporter at Mashable. She frequently covers mental health, digital culture, and technology. Her areas of expertise include suicide prevention, screen use and mental health, parenting, youth well-being, and meditation and mindfulness. Prior to Mashable, Rebecca was a staff writer, reporter, and editor at NBC News Digital, special reports project director at The American Prospect, and staff writer at Forbes. Rebecca has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and a Master’s in Journalism from U.C. Berkeley. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer, watching movie trailers, traveling to places where she can’t get cell service, and hiking with her border collie.


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