The Short of It
CNN's #Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens study looked inside the social media worlds of 200 typical teens—and the researchers were shocked to discover both the frequency of usage, with some checking into their social media pages 100 times a day, and the content, with explicit language and sexual content appearing with alarming frequency.
For CNN's #Being13 study, they had more than 200 eighth graders from six different states share the content of their social media feeds for six months—which amounted to a lot of content for the researchers to wade through—150,000 posts and messages! Not surprisingly, these teens really like their phones—one girl estimated she takes between 100 and 200 selfies a day; another said she'd "rather not eat for a week" than get her phone taken away.
But much more distressingly, researchers also discovered lots of bullying (posts like "Go die. Stop trying to be popular. Holy s**t your (sic) ugly"), nude photos (15 percent of students had received inappropriate pictures during that timeframe), and a heavy helping of profanity.
Researchers found that most of the negative impact of these nasty social media posts were neutralized when parents took an active role in reviewing their teens' social media accounts with them (a good idea, since the study also revealed that a whopping 94 percent of parents underestimate how much teens fight on social media). "Parent monitoring effectively erased the negative effects of online conflicts," said sociologist Robert Faris, a school bullying and youth aggression researcher, and the author of the study.
Pair this with the recent study that found that compulsive texting results in lower grades for teen girls, and you're probably considering tossing that smartphone (and the computer, too) right out the window. But before you decide to ban all tech, remember that there are benefits for teens to this connectivity, too. "It's a way for them to connect with friends. It's a way for them to see what people are doing. It's a way for them to feel affirmed, supported, lifted up," said child clinical psychologist Marion Underwood, the study's other co-author. "Young people use social media to exercise positive leadership all the time."