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Does it sometimes seem like your child spends every waking moment online?  It could be because she is.

Nearly half (45%) of all teens aged 13 to 17 admitted to researchers that they are online “almost constantly,” according to the latest Pew Research Center report, released last week.

You probably don’t need a research centre to tell you that young people spend a huge chunk of their screen-time on social media. But you may be surprised to learn that a quarter of those surveyed believed the effect of social media on their lives was “mostly negative.”

Bullying and rumours were the most common reasons cited. Young people also noted that these platforms “harm relationships and result in less meaningful human interactions,” according to the report. Finally, teens worried that social media provided an unrealistic view of other people’s lives, or was simply a “time-suck.”

“Gives people a bigger audience to speak and teach hate and belittle each other.”  Boy, age 13

“People can say whatever they want with anonymity and I think that has a negative impact.”  Boy, age 15

“Because teens are killing people all because of the things they see on social media or because of the things that happened on social media.”  Girl, age 14

Only 31% saw social media as mostly positive, with the largest group - 45% - saying it was neither positive nor negative.

Pew researchers found the social media landscape for young people has shifted significantly over the past three years. The decline in popularity of Facebook was the most dramatic finding - from 71% in 2014-2015 to 51% today.

Driving the exodus of teen users, say observers, is the perception that Facebook has become un-hip, having been adopted as the preferred platform for mum and dad - and likely nanna and pop as well.

Interestingly, the survey also found that lower-income teens were more likely to be Facebook users than kids from higher-income households. In families earning less than AU$40,000 a year, 70% of teens were using Facebook - compared to only about half that number (36%) from families with incomes over AU$100,000.

The social media platform of choice for this age group was roughly evenly divided between Snapchat (35%) and YouTube (32%). Although 72% reported using Instagram, only 15% said they used it most often.

Oh, and if your teen wails that “everybody else has a smartphone!” - that’s probably a simple statement of fact. The Pew research found 95% of teens owned a smartphone or had access to one.



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