Teens aware of social media effects, crafting exit paths--study

Teens aware of social media effects, crafting exit paths–study

/ 12:50 PM June 29, 2024

Contrary to popular belief, teenagers are clear about the impact of social networking on their daily lives, and are taking steps to reduce their usage. An American study has shown that while bad online experiences are the main reason for self-regulation, teenagers are also attentive to impacts on their schooling.

Far from the image often associated with young people, teenagers are far more aware of the effects of social media than we’d sometimes like to believe. Recent research conducted by Rutgers University – New Brunswick interviewing 20 13- to 16-year-olds in the US and Canada, revealed that teenagers are more aware of and active in managing their potential social media addiction than might otherwise be thought.

The researchers focused on three different angles, depending on the age of the participants: whether the teens voluntarily stopped using social networking applications, the methods they used to reduce their usage, and their motivations behind discontinuing use.

The study looked at the “frictions” — or moments of intentional pause — that young people use to limit their screen time on social media.


Social media platforms are designed to be “frictionless,” ie, to avoid disrupting users’ activity and to capture their attention at all times. However, the teens surveyed made minimal adjustments to introduce friction, such as turning off notifications or limiting time of use, to control their time online.

According to researcher Nikhila Natarajan, teenagers are increasingly aware of the negative effects of social media on their mental and physical health. This awareness coincides with the steps taken by platforms to better manage screen use.

“It is rarely a single experience, but more often a set of interconnected ones both online and offline that lead teens to think harder about social media effects and then take actions to self-regulate their use,” the researcher explains in a news release.

“Participants’ responses highlight that they are constantly thinking about the ways that their social media experiences cause both physical and emotional discomfort. Across all four ages 13-16, teens highlighted negative experiences that they credit with shifting their social media behaviors,” Natarajan said.


Measures taken

Most of the teens interviewed in the study said they go on social networks when they’re bored or because it’s a time filler.


However, more and more of them are taking steps to reduce their social media use and are thinking about the effects of social media on their well-being. Some said they had called on their parents to help them better control their smartphone use.

The study reports the testimony of Sonya, a 14-year-old girl. After spending 18 hours on TikTok, the teenager decided to take action for her physical and mental well-being. A few days before starting the study, Sonya decided to ask her father to set a code to lock her phone screen — a way of limiting her screen time in a radical but intentional way.

“I asked my dad to actually set it up. Well, not set up, but I set it up, and he just made a password, so that I couldn’t, like, ignore the time limit,” she recounts.

Others are more conscious of family time, at dinnertime, for example, especially if parents ask their children to put down their phones.

But the options offered by devices themselves are proving useful for teenagers who are increasingly conscious of their well-being. Automatic reminders or calendars allow young people to organize their time, especially when it comes to homework.

Extracurricular activities can play a role in cutting smartphone use, too. Sixteen-year-old Keith said he blocked his phone’s notifications during sports training sessions so as not to be disturbed.

Against all odds, social networks themselves can also be a source of change. Some teenagers reported changing their behavior after seeing a trend on social media advocating a healthier lifestyle.

Potential impacts on their future

Highlighting a more serious attitude than stereotypes would have us believe, teenagers are already aware of the impact that excessive social media use could have on their future, and first and foremost on their studies.

“For many participants — including the youngest — their answers to the “why?” question were less about why they stop social media use and more about why they stop themselves from even getting on social media in the first place,” the study reads.

“So, they stop before they cannot stop. Each of the 14-year-olds reported entirely different reasons. The 15-year-olds are hyperaware that if they get on to their favorite social media app, they may not get off in time to get other things done.

“For the 16-year-olds, their imminent entry into college tends to be top of mind, as junior-year grades are a vital ingredient in the college admission process. The 16-year-olds noted that their social media use does shift on account of advice from mentors at school,” says the study.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Even so, while teenagers are using the features available on their smartphones and on social media platforms, the study still points out that it’s important for these companies to improve in order to do better for teens. The work is far from over.

TOPICS: Social Media
TAGS: Social Media

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.