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Expand chart

Young people are encountering far more hate speech on social media than they did just two years ago, according to new survey data out Wednesday from Common Sense Media.

Why it matters: Cooped-up teens and young adults are spending more time than ever on social media to cope with loneliness during the pandemic, the survey shows, but they are also met with a new wave of vitriol, including body shaming and racist, sexist and homophobic content.

The big picture: Virtually all (95%) young people report using social media, with 25% of 14-to-22 year olds saying they are on social media "almost constantly" — that's an increase of 8 percentage points since 2018.

  • Context: Overall tensions were high in fall of 2020 — when the survey was conducted — as young adults were dealing with the pandemic's disruption to their lives. Youth were also witnessing social unrest unfolding in many cities across the country after the death of George Floyd, in addition to harsh partisan rhetoric surrounding the election.

What they found: 23% of 14- to 17-year-olds say they "often" came across racist comments on social media in 2020 — nearly double the number in 2018 (12%).

  • "Sadly, but not surprisingly, the teens and young adults who are most likely to be affected by such content are also most likely to encounter it — or recognize and remember it," says the study, which was done in partnership with Hopelab and the California Health Care Foundation.
  • Black young people are more likely than whites to see racist comments "often" (34% vs 23%). LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely than non-LGBTQ+ youth to encounter homophobic comments (44% vs 18%). Females are more likely to encounter sexist and body shaming posts than males.

The other side: Despite the toxic content many youth ran into on social media, they also report positive experiences. Generally, young people are far more likely to say using social media makes them feel better (43%) — up from 27% who said so two years ago.

Young people suffering from moderate to severe depressive symptoms are about twice as likely as those without symptoms to use social media almost constantly.

  • But it is not possible from this research to tell whether the relationship between social media use and depression is a causal one.
  • The research raises the possibility that as more young people began experiencing depressive symptoms — from any cause — they turned to social media to express themselves, get support or advice, or feel less alone.

What to watch: The study also found that young people are quite willing to use telehealth services. Nearly half of those surveyed have connected with health providers online, including psychiatrists and therapists for mental health issues.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Tunisian president ousts prime minister, suspends parliament amid unrest

Tunisians stage a protest in response to the problems in the health sector in the country, demanding the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the parliament in Tunis on July 25. Photo: Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tunisian President Kais Saied announced Sunday that he had dismissed the country's prime minister and frozen the parliament amidst mass protests in the country, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The move, which comes on the 64th anniversary of Tunisia's independence, escalates Saied's longstanding feud with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and poses a challenge to the 2014 constitution that "split powers between president, prime minister and parliament," per Reuters.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Pelosi appoints GOP Rep. Kinzinger to Jan. 6 committee

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Sunday that she has appointed Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to serve on the House select committee investigating the Jan 6. Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Pelosi's announcement comes after she rejected two of the five Republican appointments offered by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

USCP chief: Officers testifying before Jan. 6 committee "need to be heard"

Thomas Manger, the new chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

New Capitol Police chief Tom Manger said officers testifying before the Jan. 6 select committee this week "need to be heard."

Driving the news: The select committee's first hearing is set to take place on Tuesday and will feature testimony from law enforcement officers who were subject to some of the worst of violence during the insurrection.