Ever since the mid 1960s when the first computer building blocks of the internet were developed, it has become increasingly popular and a staple of human activity. This is most apparent in Generation Z, or today’s teenage demographic. Especially since teens can simply access these networks right from their smartphones wherever they go. According to a 2017 Nielsen report, the average age of people getting a smartphone is a mere 10 years old, and it doesn’t take long for these young kids to learn how to communicate with others through these phones, either. According to a 2018 poll conducted by the nonprofit Common Sense Media, 33%-39% of US teenagers say that their favorite method of smartphone usage is texting others.. However, this mass communication does not stop at texting. Social media platforms have made a huge impact on the way teenagers communicate with the people around them.
Youtube, Instagram, and Snapchat seem to be the biggest social media sites currently used by teenagers. According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 85% of US teens said they use Youtube, 72% of US teens said they use Instagram, and 69% of US teens said they use Snapchat. So, the majority of US teens use social media, and it’s been reported by the Pew Research Center that they have mixed views on how social media has affected their lives. 31% of US teens say that social media has had a mostly positive impact on people their age, and 24% of teens say that it has had a mostly negative effect. The main reasons for a positive impact given were connecting with friends and family and finding news and information, while the main reasons for a negative impact given were bullying and harm on relationships from lack of real-life contact. Interestingly enough, 45% of teens in that same Pew Research Study say that social media has had neither a positive or negative effect on people their age. So it turns out that social media is getting a mixed reaction from Gen Z after all.
Speaking of mixed reactions, a thriving factor in the teenage reception to social media is news and politics. Social media is one of the main ways that teenagers get their political information. In a 2016 Business Insider Tech column, teens interviewed for the piece said that they mainly rely on Snapchat and Twitter to get their political news. In fact, during a 2016 survey done by Variety, 30% of Snapchat users said that they used Snapchat as their primary means of getting information about the 2016 presidential campaign. Keep in mind that a Statista 2016 survey stated that the majority of Snapchat users are aged 18-24. Snapchat and Twitter are becoming the young people’s newspaper, as young people rank the lowest among newspaper readers. This can be a good or a bad thing, as teenagers can be more informed about the political system around them, but it is easy for false information to be spread through these social networks. Either way, there’s no doubt that social media is a convenient and simple way for teenagers to get information. It’s also a way for political figures to spread their platform to multiple audiences.
The world of networks and social media websites are continuing to grow day by day. It’s no doubt that Gen Z is using these networks as a way to communicate with others and gain information. However, the way that teens react to their social media experiences varies, just like worldwide political views. There are a plethora of different opinions on whether social media is beneficial for communication, or a reputable source… When Vox Media Cafe reporters asked different teenagers about their social media usage, there were definitely some different opinions presented as well. Two out of the four of the interviewees described how they use social media every day, while the other two disclosed that they don’t use social media because they don’t see it as necessary or beneficial to them.
Regardless, the internet usage of teenagers is a current phenomenon and it will certainly continue to be a staple for most of Generation Z.
Christina Norris, 18, is a VOX Media Cafe reporter and participant. This piece is accompanied by a video by Olivia Durr and a podcast episode by Armando Toscano.