Social media makes teenagers less lonely, claims survey

News, Social Media

Nearly half of all UK teenagers believe that using social media makes them feel less lonely, despite concerns from parents, new research shows.

The TalkTalk Teenage Loneliness and Technology report found that 48% of teenagers felt the platforms helped them, with 64% saying they had never had a negative experience when using technology.

This was in stark contrast to parents, as only 26% of those asked agree that technology reduced loneliness.

The impact of social media on society, mental health and in particular young people has been increasingly debated, with the Government’s recently published white paper around online harms proposing tighter regulations for social media firms who do no protect their users.

Politicians, charities and parents have repeatedly criticised social media platforms for failing to protect young people from danger online, with a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing earlier this year calling addiction to social media being classed as a disease by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The report is based on the results of a survey conducted for TalkTalk by Censuswide of 2,005 young people aged 13-16 in the UK, and 2,005 parents of those young people.

It found that 70% of parents worry about their children’s use of technology. However, it suggested teenagers were more optimistic about the impact of technology.

More than half of those surveyed (51%) said that in times of loneliness, the internet and technology had offered a solution by helping them make new friends, find support and advice or receiving positive comments.

The report even suggests that parents felt more lonely than their children, with 28% of parents saying they often felt lonely, compared to 21% of young people.

TalkTalk chief executive Tristia Harrison said: “I am heartened to see that technology can, in many cases, help tackle feelings of loneliness in young people. It is also clear that open and regular communication between parents and their teenagers on this topic cannot be underestimated.

“As CEO and a parent of teenage children, I’m proud that TalkTalk has a long history of leading efforts to ensure the internet is a safer place.

“But as the technology constantly evolves, it presents new issues and challenges. As an industry, we must continually reassess what more we can be doing to understand and mitigate online risks, so our young people have the best possible experience online.”

Dr Rebecca Nowland, research fellow at the University of Central Lancashire faculty of health and well-being said the generation gap could explain the difference in opinion between teenagers and their parents.

“The impacts of technology on loneliness may not be the same for each generation. New social technologies are important for young people to connect with their friends,” she said.

“The survey findings show that teenagers see social digital technologies as a way to reduce loneliness. Although parents are able to see the positives of young people’s technology use, there is still a digital divide between the generations. Worries for parents centre on not feeling equipped or having sufficient knowledge to keep youth safe online.”

Chris Price
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