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Youth, Media, and Technology

While there is a great deal of public concern over negative effects of engaging in social media, research shows the balance of negative and positive effects to be individualized and nuanced [1, 2, 3, 4]. Digital communication offers young people platforms through which they can explore domains of development and relationships in ways that can both nurture and harm their well-being [3, 4, 5]. For example, using social media can help adolescents develop a positive social self-concept, increase their sense of belonging, and improve connection with family and friends, but it can also drive alienation from peers and increase aggressiveness and conflict [1].

Adolescents are early adapters of new technology. How are teens using new technologies and social media?

Trends and Statistics

Demographics: Internet and Social Media

Updated regularly, this web page highlights selected statistics on adolescents' use of digital media. ACT for Youth.

The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 2021

This large-scale study explores how kids age 8 to 18 in the U.S. use media across an array of activities and devices to see where they spend their time and what they enjoy most. Common Sense Media.

Digital Media, Youth Development, and Health

The Pros and Cons of Social Media for Youth

This post on the Evidence-Based Living blog summarizes a 2021 review of research on how social media affects well-being in youth. Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research and Psychology Today.

Teens and Mental Health: How Girls Really Feel About Social Media

This report offers a road map to teen girls' online lives — with commentary straight from the girls themselves. Where do they spend their time online, and what do they come across while they are there? And do they believe any platforms are worse offenders than others when it comes to their mental health? Common Sense Media.

Teens and Pornography

The majority of U.S. teens in this survey report they're watching pornography online. But they also say conversations with trusted adults go a long way to helping them understand what they see in pornography and exploring their sexuality in healthy ways. Common Sense Media.

Digital Health Practices, Social Media Use, and Mental Well-Being Among Teens and Young Adults in the U.S.

This report presents findings from a nationally representative survey of teens and young adults conducted in 2018. The report covers two main topics: 1) young people's use of online health information and digital health tools, and 2) the associations between social media use and mental well-being among youth. Hopelab and Well Being Trust.

Teens' Social Media Habits and Experiences

This national survey illustrates what teens think and feel about the challenges and benefits of social media, especially with respect to friendships and peer groups. Pew Research Center.

New Global Kids Online Findings

Much attention is focused on the potential risks for children using the internet, but recent research stresses how important it is that children spend time online in order to learn how to navigate these risks and make the most of the opportunities offered.

TECHsex: Youth Sexuality and Health Online

For this 2017 study, researchers conducted a national survey and focus groups in seven cities to explore the relationships between technology, youth, and sexual health. YTH.

PYD 101: Youth and Technology

This free, on-demand short course describes key features of the internet, implications for online behavior, and the impact of social media on adolescent well-being and development. Registration required. ACT for Youth and the Cornell Social Media Lab.


  1. Dredge, R., & Schreurs, L. (2020). Social media use and offline interpersonal outcomes during youth: A systematic literature review. Mass Communication and Society, 23(6), 885-911.

  2. Orben, A., Dienlin, T., & Przybylski, A. K. (2019). Social media's enduring effect on adolescent life satisfaction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  3. Shankleman, M., Hammond, L., & Jones, F. W. (2021). Adolescent social media use and well-being: A systematic review and thematic meta-synthesis. Adolescent Research Review.

  4. Smith, D., Leonis, T., & Anandavalli, S. (2021). Belonging and loneliness in cyberspace: Impacts of social media on adolescents' well-being. Australian Journal of Psychology, 73(1), 12-23.

  5. Ehrenreich, S. E., George, M. J., Burnell, K., & Underwood, M. K. (2021). Importance of digital communication in adolescents' development: Theoretical and empirical advancements in the last decade. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 31(4), 928-943.