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Expand chart
Reproduced from "Social media, social life," Rideout, V., and Robb, M. B. (2018); Chart: Axios Visuals

Today's teens prefer texting over in-person communication, use social media multiple times a day, and admit that digital distractions interfere with homework, personal relationships and sleep, according to a new survey of 13- to 17-year-olds.

Why it matters: Concerns over the negative impact of social media use have increased recently with reports of teen depression, suicide and cyberbullying on the rise. The study by Common Sense Media, a non-profit group focused on tech and media's impact on kids, shows teens have a complicated relationship with technology.

Key findings:

  • 81% of teens use social media, with 70% saying they use it multiple times a day, up from 34% in 2012. And 89% have their own smartphone, more than doubling since 2012.
  • 72% of teens believe that tech companies manipulate users to spend more time on devices.
  • The proportion of teens who prefer in-person interaction has plummeted from 49% in 2012 to 32% in 2018. Texting is now the favorite mode of communication.
  • 13% of teens say they've been cyber-bullied.
  • 33% of teens say they wish their parents would spend less time on their devices, up from 21% in 2012.
  • In 2012, 68% said their go-to social site was Facebook. That number fell to 15% in 2018, with Snapchat and Instagram the new favorites.

The social life conundrum: 54% of teens agree that using social media often distracts them when they are with people, and 44% say they get frustrated when their friends are using their phones while hanging out. Yet 55% say they hardly ever or never put their devices away when hanging out with friends.

"I wonder if we are seeing the beginnings of some weird negative feedback loop where we can't help but be on our devices when we're with other people, and we get upset with others for being distracted by their devices when they're with us — so therefore we don't want to hang out with people in person anymore because it's easier to interact with them on our devices."
— Vicky Rideout, independent researcher who conducted the surveys in 2012 and 2018

The impact: Interestingly, despite the increased use of social media, teens are more likely to say that social media has a positive effect on them. For instance, 25% say using social media makes them feel less lonely, compared to 3% who say it makes them feel more lonely.

  • Yes, but: Still, more than two-thirds of teens agree with the statement, "social media has a negative impact on many people my age."
  • And 40% agree with the statement, "I sometimes wish I could go back to a time when there was no such thing as social media."

Be smart: For parents and teachers, Rideout says one solution is to model restraint by setting aside particular times — such as during meals, while doing homework, and before bedtime — to silence devices.

Go deeper: Find the full report here.

Editor's note: This piece has been corrected to show the survey found 13% of teens say they have been cyber bullied (not 35%).

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.

Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation

Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.