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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

2 hours ago - World

In photos: Students evacuated as wildfire burns historic Cape Town buildings

Firefighters try, in vain, to extinguish a fire in the Jagger Library, at the University of Cape Town, after a forest fire came down the foothills of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday. Photo: Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images

A massive wildfire spread from the foothills of Table Mountain to the University of Cape Town Sunday, burning historic South African buildings and forcing the evacuation of 4,000 students, per Times Live.

The big picture: Visitors to the Table Mountain National Park and other nearby attractions were also evacuated and several roads including a major highway, were closed. South Africa's oldest working windmill and the university's Jagger Library, which houses SA antiquities, are among the buildings damaged.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

3 killed, 2 wounded overnight in Kenosha bar shooting

Three people died and two others were hospitalized with serious injuries after a gunman entered bar in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, the police department said in a statement on Sunday.

The latest: Officers arrested a "person of interest" Sunday afternoon in connection with the 12:42 a.m. shooting and there's "no threat to the community at this time," per a later police statement.

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

Big European soccer teams announce breakaway league

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) after striking the ball during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Liverpool F.C. and Real Madrid at Anfield in Liverpool, England, last Wednesday. Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

12 of world soccer's biggest and richest clubs announced Sunday they've formed a breakaway European "Super League" — with clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona Real Madrid, Juventus and A.C. Milan among those to sign up.

Why it matters: The prime ministers of the U.K. and Italy are among those to express concern at the move — which marks a massive overhaul of the sport's structure and finances, and it effectively ends the decades-old UEFA Champions League's run as the top tournament for European soccer.