Teens on Social Media

How Much Does The Average Teen Spends On Social Media?

How Much Does The Average Teen Spends On Social Media?

She spends like half the day on her phone, 14-year-old Abigale Wolfe said with a laugh when asked about her cellphone use.
Abigale, a local student who was visiting the Mall with her parents recently, isn’t the only one. Today’s teens spend more than 7 1/ 2 hours a day consuming media watching TV, listening to music, surfing the Web, social networking, and playing video games, according to a 2015 study of 8- to 18-year-olds conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Teens today, also known as the Facebook Generation or digital natives, are part of the first U.S. generation to be so closely identified with technology.

For most teens, the big increase in screen time is on their cellphones. More than three-quarters of all teens own cellphones, according to a 2011 study conducted by Pew Internet and American Life Project. This is an increase from the 45 percent of teens who owned cellphones in 2004, Pew said.

Teens use their cellphones to text (an average of 60 times a day, according to the Pew study), check Facebook, play games and listen to music.

Vanessa Van Petten is the author and creator of the Web site Radical Parenting, which offers parenting advice written by kids. She said this is a direct result of what she calls hybrid life. For previous generations of teens, she said, There was technology time and there was offline time. Now, there’s no separation.

From the time I get home until I go to bed, I’m usually on my computer, 14-year-old Ben Knight, who was recently visiting Washington from Pennsylvania, said when asked about how he spends his time. As he toured the National Air and Space Museum, he said one of his favorite things to do online was visit flight- and rail-simulator Web sites.

Despite the heavy integration of technology into most aspects of daily teenage life, teens are spending time unplugged.
Ben said he goes for bike rides with his friends in nice weather, and he is more likely to stay inside with his video games in bad weather. In the summertime, we may play a couple of rounds [of video games], and then it gets boring and we head outside, he said. I don’t like staying inside all the time.

There has been a big decline in how much time teens engage in unstructured play just going outside and playing ball, said Sandra Hofferth, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Family Science. Children are still playing sports and engaged in extracurricular activities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2015 American Time Use Survey, high school students spent on average less than an hour per weekday on sports, exercise and recreation.

As digital media becomes more integrated into daily teenage life, child development and education experts have begun to identify the unique opportunities it offers, including easier access to information and new opportunities for learning, as well as the negative impacts on adolescents, particularly the development of their social skills.
There’s much more interactivity and learning that can take place with new media, Hofferth said. You don’t interact with a television.
Alivia Moe, a 14-year-old high school freshman from North Carolina, said she learned to play the ukulele by watching lessons on YouTube. I don’t have much time, and it’s hard to make appointments [for music lessons], she explained. She said she also uses her smartphone mainly to text, shop and check in with her 585 Facebook friends.

But some experts say they worry that teens spend so much interacting with each other on social networks and phones that they are growing less comfortable with in-person interactions and not developing essential social skills.

It’s much easier to look at a phone than to look someone in the eye, Van Petten said.

Still, she said, parents from previous generations fretted about the ill effects of rock-and-roll when it was first introduced.
There are always things to be concerned about, she said.

The influence of social media on adolescents and teenagers is of particular importance, not only because this particular group of children is developmentally vulnerable but also because they are among the heaviest users of social networking. According to a report by Common Sense Media, 75 percent of teenagers in America currently have profiles on social networking sites, of which 68 percent use Facebook as their main social networking tool.

While social networking undoubtedly plays a vital role in broadening social connections and learning technical skills, its risks cannot be overlooked. The lack or difficulty in self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure makes adolescents vulnerable to such evils as Facebook depression, sexting, and cyberbullying, which are realistic threats. Other problems such as social network-induced obesity, Internet addiction and sleep deprivation are issues that continue to be under intense scrutiny for the contradictory results that have been obtained in various studies.

The American Psychological Association defines bullying as aggressive behavior by an individual that causes discomfort to another. Cyberbullying ranges from direct threatening and unpleasant emails to anonymous activities such as trolling. 32 percent of online teens admit to having experienced a range of menacing online advances from others. While direct unpleasant emails or messages are the most straightforward form of cyberbullying, they are probably the least prevalent in that only 13 percent of surveyed youngsters admitted to receiving threatening or aggressive messages. Even forwarding a private note to a group without permission from the sender is often perceived as cyberbullying; Pew research found that 15 percent of teens were disturbed and uncomfortable about having had their private message forwarded or posted in a public forum. Pew also found that nearly 39 percent of teens on social network have been cyberbullied in some way, compared with 22 percent of online teens who do not use social networks. Trolling, the act of deliberately inflicting hatred, bigotry, racism, misogyny, or just simple bickering between people, often anonymously, is also pervasive in social network. If you thought Trolls lived under bridge, 28 percent of America lives there, it seems.

A very important cause for cyberbullying is the anonymity possible on the Internet. According to Stopbullying.gov, two kinds of people are likely to be cyberbullies the popular ones and those on the fringes of society; the former resort to such activities to stay popular or to feel powerful, while the latter troll to fit into a society or to get back at a society that excludes them. The National Council on Crime Prevention found from a survey that about three out of four victims of cyberbullying eventually trace the identity of the cyberbully, and so the anonymity may not be as safe a net as the bully believes. The cyberbully is often a friend (if they can be called that without insulting the word or sentiment), or someone they know from school or outside. Only 23 percent of the victims reported to have been bullied by someone they don’t know.

Cyberbullying appears easy to the bully because they do not see their victims’ reactions in person, and thus the impact of the consequences is small. In reality, however, the consequences can be life altering to the extent that the victims could go as far as taking their lives or become psychologically distressed enough to require medical intervention. The ironically individualistic nature of social networking activities makes it difficult to recognize a victim of cyberbullying, but tell-tale signs include avoiding or being anxious around the computer or cell phone and sudden change in behavior patterns.

Sexting, the action of sending sexually revealing pictures of themselves or sexually explicit messages to another individual or group, is another common activity among the teen community in social media. A nationwide survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found a shocking 20 percent of teens participating in sexting. While teenage boys resort to sending sexually explicit or suggestive messages, teenage girls are more likely to send inappropriate photos of themselves, mostly to their boyfriends. However, the permanence and pervasiveness of the internet makes it a fertile ground for spreading such information to the extent of getting viral 17 percent of sexters admittedly share the messages they receive with others, and 55 percent of those share them with more than one person. Beyond the personal trauma and humiliation sexting may cause, there are judicial ramifications as well; some states consider such activities as misdemeanors while many group sexting under felony.

Facebook depression, defined as emotional disturbance that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, is now a very real malady. Recent studies have shown that comparisons are the main cause of Facebook depression; the study showed that down-comparison (comparing with inferiors) was just as likely to cause depression as up-comparison (comparing with people better than oneself). However, there are contradictory reports as well. Another study showed that Facebook makes us happier and increased social trust and engagement among users. Given that our brains are wired to connect, it seems logical to expect that social networks, by enabling sharing, could cause a self-reinforcing sense of psychological satisfaction. These studies show that the effect of social network on well-being hinges on how social networks are used whether to connect or to compare.

Other risks of extensive social networking among youth are loss of privacy, sharing too much information, and disconnect from reality. The digital footprint is a permanent trail that users of social media, indeed of the Internet itself, leave the moment they sign into any service. The digital footprint, by its permanence, can have serious repercussions in future, in both professional and personal areas of life. It is important to know that every activity online posts on social media accounts, comments left on various sites, tweets, retweets and +1s through years can contribute to the digital footprint. Another serious risk is the amount of information shared on social network sites. LexisNexis and Lawers.com surveyed 1,000 Americans and found that half of them divulged too much personal data online. What is more worrying is the fact that 44 percent of them believed that the information they posted on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace were being used against them.

Adolescence is the time to spread wings and take the tentative first flight out into the world, and parents and caregivers must be part of the process. In the domain of social networking, this entails parents becoming educated about the advantages and disadvantages of social networking and themselves joining social network sites, not to hover, but to be aware of the activities of their teenage wards. It is essential that parents are aware of and monitor privacy settings and online profiles of their wards. Open discussions about social network protocols and etiquettes would go a long way in establishing global digital citizenship and healthy behavior.


Founder of WannaFollow.com

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