A new study released today found that despite stereotypes about teens being glued to their devices around the clock, teens can and do take social media breaks.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago surveyed 790 American teenagers between the ages of 13 to 17 and published the results of the poll here.
Researchers found that “regardless of how social media makes teens feel, many have left social media at some point, often multiple times and for extended stretches.” More than half of teens take breaks from social media, according to the study.
In fact, 58 percent of respondents had taken a break and among those who had not, 23 percent said they have wanted to take one.
About half of teens said their social media breaks are typically a week or longer, and boys were more likely than girls to take longer breaks.
The reason for the break impacted how kids felt about their time away from Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms. Those who left voluntarily reported more positive feelings about their time away than those who didn’t have a choice. The latter group had more fear of missing out and felt disconnected from important people in their lives.
Unsurprisingly, they weren’t as glad when the was involuntary (typically the result of parental punishment or a lost phone) as those who initiated it on their own.
Reasons for voluntarily taking a break included that social media was interfering with school and work, and almost a quarter of teen wanted a respite from the “conflict and drama.” Twenty percent of kids said they just tired of keeping up with it.
That said, teens definitely see the positives to social media, which is not surprising and also explains why they are highly likely to return to their social media accounts. More than three quarters of teen respondents said social media makes them feel closer to friends, and 40 percent of teens reported that it makes them feel closer to family.
However, I was surprised by the fact that just 15 percent of teens said social media “makes them feel like they always need to show the best version of themselves.” I would have guessed that the figure would be higher.
Another study released this week out of Britain found kids may also want their parents to take some breaks from their phones. More than a third of kids between ages 11 and 18 said that they had asked their parents to put down their phones.
Bringing up this study with your teen could be a good way to start some important conversations with your tweens and teens.
Ask them about whether they have ever wanted to take a break from social media, why they feel that way and if they think breaks could be helpful sometimes. What do they see as the benefits of taking a break? What are the drawbacks to doing so, if any?
See if your kids think that you would benefit from a break from your social media accounts and/or devices. If they do, explore whether that’s something you could do together as a family.
It’s also worth asking kids if they work to present the best version of themselves on social media, and whether they have different attitudes toward different accounts. Most teens have multiple Instagram accounts, for example, and the “finsta” account is often a more true to life portrayal that is far less curated than their other account.
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