By Cecilia Kang The Washington Post
For the vast majority of teens, using social-media sites and texting has become a part of daily life, but they still prefer communicating face-to-face, according to a survey released Tuesday.
Overall, the teens who participated in the study painted a positive picture of the influence of social media on their relationships and self-image. More than half of these “digital natives” — the first generation to have grown up with Facebook — said these technologies have helped them keep in touch with friends, get to know other students at their school better or connect with those who share a common interest. One in 5 said that using social-networking sites makes them feel more confident, popular and sympathetic to others.
The national study of more than 1,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 17 by the child advocacy group Common Sense Media generally debunks the popular perception that using social-media sites is inherently harmful because of the dangers of isolation, bullying from peers, the release of private or personal information, or online predators.
However, the report did contain hints of what it called “Facebook fatigue,” with a significant number saying they are “addicted” to devices (41 percent for cellphones), would like to unplug sometimes (43 percent), or go back to a time before Facebook was invented (36 percent).
“Many teens express an almost adult-like weariness with the pressures of the constant texting and posting involved in their modern lives,” the report stated.
The mixed feelings that teens have about digital communication shed new light on a population growing up immersed in online technology. Research is scant on the behavioral and developmental effects of technology on youths.
Text messaging is still the favored application of teens for communicating. Two-thirds of respondents said they text every day, and half said they visit social-networking sites daily. One-quarter of teens use at least two different types of social media a day.
Facebook, which is considering lowering the minimum age of its users, is the favored service among teens, with seven out of 10 people surveyed saying they have an account, compared with 6 percent for Twitter and 1 percent for Google+ and Myspace.
Half of teens said they feel social networks have helped their friendships, while only 4 percent said the platforms have hurt relationships.
Three out of 10 teens said social networks made them feel more outgoing, compared with 5 percent who said they felt more introverted.
Still, half of all respondents said real-life communication is the most fun and fruitful for their relationships.