Young people are both smart and thoughtful about using digital media and devices – for mental health and other purposes – a groundbreaking new study shows, and they are far from naïve about what doesn’t work for them in social media. The study, by researchers Victoria Rideout and Susannah Fox, had both quantitative and qualitative elements, including a remarkable 2,200 personal responses from its 1,300 respondents, a nationally representative sample of U.S. 14-22 year-olds.
“It is almost as if they were waiting for someone to ask; now it is our turn to listen,” Rideout and Fox wrote in the report’s introduction.
In an unusual concluding statement, they wrote, “It is an emotional experience to be offered this glimpse into the lives of so many young people – to see how important health concerns are in so many of their lives. These youth should be proud of the many ways they are innovating solutions to their health challenges; we can all learn from their openness and use of digital tools to connect with resources and with each other.”
I agree with that last sentence, as well as with what Rideout later wrote me in an email that arrived in my in-box as their report was about to be released: “Most young people are exhibiting a lot more agency in their use of social media than we typically give them credit for.” It’s gratifying to see this takeaway from a prominent researcher, not to mention the empirical evidence behind it, making research a tool for learning about, supporting and enhancing young people’s own strategies for self-care and self-actualization.
“Digital Health Practices, Social Media Use, and Mental Well-Being Among Teens and Young Adults in the U.S.” is just the first report coming out of their research, according to Hopelab and Well Being Trust, the San Francisco-based nonprofit organizations that commissioned it.
The report covers “two main topics,” Rideout and Fox wrote: “first, young people’s self-described use of online health information and digital health tools, including those used for peer-to-peer health exchanges; and second, the associations between self-reported social media use and mental well-being among teens and young adults.”
Here’s just a sampler of what the research turned up (I hope you’ll click to it to see their respondents’ own words on the apps, devices and strategies they use): Read more