The common stereotype has teens glued to their phones 24-7. But nearly 60 percent of teens in the US have actually taken a break from social media -- the bulk of them voluntarily, a new survey found.
The poll, from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, surveyed teens aged 13 to 17 and found that most value the feeling of connection with friends and family that social media provides. The survey, released Thursday, found that teens’ social media breaks are typically a week or longer, and that boys are more likely to take longer breaks.
Teens were allowed to cite multiple reasons for their breaks. Nearly two-thirds of teens who took a break cited at least one voluntary reason. Amanda Lenhart, the lead researcher and an expert on young people and technology use, said she was surprised by this, as it counters the broader narrative that teens are ‘handcuffed’ to their social media profiles.
Today’s teenagers might not recall a time before social media. MySpace was founded in 2003. Had it survived, it would be 14 years old today. Facebook is a year younger.
Instagram launched in 2010. For an adult to understand what it might be like for someone who grew up with it to step back from social media, consider disconnecting from email -- or your phone -- for a couple of weeks. Among the teens who took voluntary breaks, 38 percent did so because social media was getting in the way of work or school. Nearly a quarter said they were tired of “the conflict and drama” and 20 percent said they were tired of having to keep up with what’s going on.
Nearly half of teens who took a break did so involuntarily. This included 38 percent who said their parents took away their phone or computer and 17 percent who said their phone was lost, broken or stolen.
About 35 percent of teens surveyed said they have not taken a break, citing such worries as missing out and being disconnected from friends. Some said they need social media for school or extracurricular activities.
-Lower income teens were more likely to take social media breaks than their wealthier counterparts, and their breaks tended to last longer. The study points out that educators who use social media in the classroom need to understand that not every teen is online and connected all the time.