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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teens spend 4.8 hours a day on social media, says Gallup

U.S. teenagers average 4.8 hours a day on social media apps such as YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), according to a Gallup survey. For 17-year-olds, the average is 5.8 hours.

"YouTube and TikTok are by far the most popular social media apps among teens," writes Jonathan Rothwell.

Girls spend more time on apps than boys, and teens who rate themselves as less conscientious also spend more time on social media.

Teens spend less time on social media if their parents restrict screen time, the survey found. Still, they average 3.7 hours on media compared to 5.5 hours for those whose parents set no restrictions.

Gallup also surveyed parents with children aged 3 to 19: One in four restrict screen time with very conservative parents much more likely (41 percent) to be restrictive compared to moderate, liberal or very liberal parents (23 percent).

A 2021 University of Michigan survey estimated 8th and 10th graders averaged 3½ hours daily on social media platforms, while 35 percent of teens aid they used social media “almost constantly” in a 2022 Pew Research survey.

Some link the youth mental health crisis to the rise in screen time, writes Matthew Stone on Education Week.

One 2019 study of 12- to 15-year-olds found that those who spent more than three hours daily on social media were twice as likely as peers who spent less time to report poor mental health, including symptoms of depression and anxiety. Another study of college-age students found improvements in their mental health when they limited social media use to 30 minutes a day or less.

"Another side effect of an increasingly online life is that young people are spending less time with friends in person," writes Stone. "The drop in time spent with friends over the past two decades has been particularly pronounced among 15- to 24-year-olds."

"Safer at home" turned out to be a mental-health (and academic) disaster.

Compulsive TikTokking could be "a symptom rather than a cause" of the surge in anxiety and depression, writes J.D. Tuccille on Reason. A newly published paper argues that "helicopter parenting" has caused a decline in mental health that leads to more social media use.

"Parents have reported that their children play independently outdoors far less than they themselves did as children and that they limit their children's freedom outdoors largely because of fears of crime and traffic," the authors write. Children are less likely to walk or bicycle to school.

Teenagers are less likely to hold after-school school jobs or have a driver's license. That gives them more time for TikTok and doomscrolling.

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