Teens Would Rather Text Their Friends Than Talk to Them in Person

Facebook is for olds. And so, apparently, is speaking to other people in person.

At least that seems to be the finding of Common Sense Media’s 2018 Social Media, Social Life survey, a nationally representative poll of more than 1,000 teenagers. Only 15% of teens said Facebook (FB) was their main social media site, down from 68% in 2012. Snapchat is now the main site for 41% of teenagers, followed by Instagram at 22%.

In addition, this year’s survey saw texting (35%) surpass in-person (32%) as teens’ favorite way to communicate with friends. In 2012, 49% preferred to communicate in person, versus 33% who preferred texting.

The findings will be fairly intuitive for anyone who has watched Facebook’s evolution from a campus-only network to the domain of sexagenerians—or the intensity with which teens text. But the survey offers some more surprising results about the impact social media has on teenagers’ mental health and self perception—or at least the impact they say it has. Indeed, most teens seem to feel that social media has enhanced their social lives and well-being. But there is some cause for concern.

For instance, more teens said that social media had a positive effect on their levels of loneliness, depression, and anxiety than those who said it had a negative one, but it seems to have the opposite effect on teens who score low on the authors’ social-emotional well-being scale. Of those, 70% said they sometimes feel left out when using social media, 43% feel bad if no one likes or comments on their posts, and 35% said they had been cyberbullied. They were also more likely to say that social media was “extremely” or “very” important, compared to their peers who score high on the scale.

But teens also seem to be a bit more savvy online than adults may give them credit for: 72% of those surveyed said they believe tech companies manipulate users to spend more time on their devices. And for as much hand-wringing as adults do over the amount of time teens spend on their phones, they’re looking right back across the void. A full 33% of those surveyed said they wished their parents would spend less time using their devices.

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