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Does the use of social media affect the well-being of adolescents?

Isabel Rodríguez de Dios and Emma Rodero, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Project selected in the call for research projects on technology and society

Adolescents are among the main users of social media. For this reason, in recent years, concern has increased regarding the negative consequences that this use could have on their health. This article presents data from a survey conducted among over seven-hundred adolescents in Spain. The results show that minors find much more social support in these digital environments. Despite the adolescents devoting a large amount of time every day to social media, this frequent use is not related with their actual well-being in the long term. However, online support or victimization are, and therefore the relevant aspect is the type of experiences that they encounter when they access these environments. Furthermore, certain user personality characteristics play a relevant role in the relationship between social media use and well-being, whereas gender does not.
Key points
  • 1
       Adolescents spend more time looking at other people’s contents on social media than uploading their own photos, videos, or messages. Eight out of every ten adolescents consume contents on social media every day, but only one out of every ten uploads content with the same frequency.
  • 2
       On social media, social support is much greater than victimization. Some 77% of adolescents find numerous forms of support online with great frequency, while 62.3% have experienced some type of victimization although very occasionally. In fact, 27.3% have never experienced online victimization, while 0.6% have not found support online.
  • 3
       The well-being of adolescents would be related with their experiences on social media, but not with their frequency of use of them.
  • 4
       Minors who find greater support on social media also manifest greater life satisfaction and a lesser sensation of loneliness. However, the daily time employed on social media does not influence adolescents’ level of well-being.
  • 5
       The type of use of social media and the experiences encountered on them (support or victimization) are similar for boys and girls, independently of their age.
  • 6
       Online social support is especially beneficial for more introvert adolescents: the greater the support they find on social media, the greater their level of well-being.
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