Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives

A Common Sense Research Study
June 26, 2012

Teens are much more likely to report that using social media has a positive impact on their social and emotional lives than a negative one.

Many more teens report a positive impact of social media use on their emotional well-being than a negative one. Most teens don't think their use of social media affects their social and emotional well-being one way or the other. But there are some teens who think that using social media does affect how they feel about themselves and their social situation.

More than one in four teens say that using their social networking site makes them feel less shy (29%) and more outgoing (28%); one in five says it makes them feel more confident (20%), more popular (19%), and more sympathetic to others (19%); and 15% say it makes them feel better about themselves. By comparison, only 5% say social networking makes them feel less outgoing; 4% feel worse about themselves, less confident, and less popular after using their social networking site; and 3% feel shyer.

Very few teens think that using their social network site makes them more depressed. Among all teen social network users, only 5% say using their social networking site makes them feel more depressed, compared to 10% who say it makes them feel less depressed. Even among the least happy teens in this study (the 10% of all teens who say they are often sad or depressed and aren't very happy with their lives), 18% say using their social networking site makes them feel more depressed, while 13% say it lessens their depression.

In particular, teens think that using social media has helped their relationships. Half (52%) of all teen social media users say using such media has mainly helped their relationships with friends, compared to just 4% who say social media use has mainly hurt their relationships. Similarly, more than a third (37%) say social media use has mainly helped their relationships with family members, compared to 2% who say it has mainly hurt them. In addition, a majority of teens say social media help them keep in touch with friends they can't see regularly (88%), get to know other students at their school better (69%), and connect with new people who share a common interest (57%).