Research shows almost 90% of teens have a smartphone, most feel manipulated by tech companies

Posted: , by Georgi Zarkov Georgi Zarkov

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Research shows almost 90% of teens have a smartphone, most feel manipulated by tech companies
Teenagers’ online habits seem to be a prime target for researchers, and now we have a new study on our hands that gives us further insight about what part smartphones have in their lives. The report was made by Common Sense Media and it’s based on the answers of 1,413 participants between the ages of 13 and 17, from all parts of the United States.

Unsurprisingly, the number of teenagers that have smartphones has sharply risen during the last few years, while in 2012 only 41% had one, today that number is 89%. Naturally, the rise of social media use, within the examined group, correspondents with that, from 34% to 70% in the last six years. That led to a major shift in the way teens prefer to communicate. While in the good old days of 2012, the favorite way of communicating was in person, in 2018 it was replaced by texting. Thanks to better phones and faster internet connections, video-chatting is now the favorite way to connect for 10% of youngsters.

Research shows almost 90  of teens have a smartphone, most feel manipulated by tech companies

When it comes to the specific social media teenagers prefer to use, one thing is clear, Facebook is not it. In fact, only 15% of the participants said Facebook is their main social media site. The most used one is Snaptchat with a hefty 41% share, followed by Instagram with 22%.

This survey aligns with previous ones that showed that teens are aware that they spend too much time on their phones. More than half agree that it distracts them when they should be doing homework or paying attention to the people around them, and 42% realize that being on social media takes away from the time they could be spending with their friends in the real world.

Interestingly, teens partially blame the companies behind social media websites and apps for their excess use. 72% of them think that tech companies manipulate their users to make them spend more time online. It’s not clear what the participants see as manipulation, often companies just offer more functionality within their apps to keep users around longer.

When given the opportunity to self-evaluate the impact social media has on their lives, however, teens mostly see a positive one. A quarter of the surveyed said social media makes them feel less lonely, 16% said it makes them less depressed, while one in five teens think that social media makes them more confident and more popular.

Research shows almost 90  of teens have a smartphone, most feel manipulated by tech companies


It's not all good, of course, being successful on social media is important for teenagers and when that's not the case, there are negative consequences. 43% of the participants said they've deleted a social media post because it received too few "likes". The same number represents the amount of teens that feel bad if no one likes or comments on their post.

Overall, the social media experience appears to be a good digital equivalent of the environment teenagers have in school. Being liked and popular gives you an emotional boost, while being an outsider can cause distress.

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