Teens are still using the top social media sites to connect and interact with their world.
Of course, for the most part, their “world” remains the self-absorbed place parents and older generations know it to be. Sure, teens are trying to figure out who they are and develop their own identities, but they’re doing so on Instagram and Facebook.
Thanks to a new study by the Pew Research Center, at least we now know teens are still living in a world we recognize, and on social media platforms we know how to use.
In contrast to previous stories of teens abandoning sites such as Facebook and Twitter for new, lesser-known social media platforms, the new Pew report suggests Facebook reigns supreme among teens, followed by Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
According to the report, “Facebook remains the most used social media site among American teens ages 13 to 17 with 71% of all teens using the site, even as half of teens use Instagram and four-in-ten use Snapchat.”
According to the study, only 11 percent of teens with smart phones report using lesser-known anonymous sharing apps (e.g., Whisper, Ask.FM).
It should surprise no one that 92 percent of teens reported going online daily, and that another 24 percent said they are “constantly online.”
For some parents, however, it’s that nearly 1-in-4 teens who say they’re “constantly online” that is most disconcerting.
Constantly connecting online is frightening to some who see the head-down-looking-at-screen-ignoring-the-world-around-me as the biggest detriment to the post-Millennial generation (side note: No one has really named this generation yet. I vote for iGeneration. Selfie Generation, anyone?).
Pew didn’t provide a definition for being “constantly online,” although one can certainly imagine what that means.
I asked some of my Facebook friends to provide their own definitions.
“People, not just teens, are using a variety of devices and are tethered to social media and email,” said Deb Cunningham, an instructor at Youngstown State University. “Checking for updates is a habit for many, myself included. Seldom do we spend time sitting quietly, observing our surroundings. If there’s a second when our attention isn’t occupied, we fill that time by checking our devices.”
Jimmy Sanderson, a professor at Clemson University and social media researcher, agreed with Cunningham’s definition. “Being constantly online means going on so much you can’t count how many times you do,” he said.
Others suggested a better term might be “constantly connected.” But regardless of the terminology or definitions, we know it when we see it — or feel it, in our necks (my wife calls this “text neck”), thumbs, wrists and eyes.
Encouraging teens and others around us to use tech in moderation — to unplug once in a while — might help us develop deeper connections to the world around us, and save us a few trips to the chiropractor or eye doctor.
~ A version of this post appeared in the Sunday, April 19, 2015 "Connected" section of The Vindicator newspaper.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.