An interesting study from the University of Michigan gives a glimpse into how social media experiences change for teens. The researchers followed 1200 teenagers from 2013-2017, looking at their experiences with online harassment, stalking, and coercion. They found that more teens reported those experiences between ages 12 and 15, with the percentages peaking at ages 15-16. Later teens reported fewer such experiences.
The actual percentages were disconcerting. From ages 12-15, electronic harassment increased from 18% to 33%; electronic coercion from 12% to 28%; and electronic monitoring from 6% to 8%. For the 15-18 cohort, the percentages peaked and then declined. In 9th grade, 32% reported electronic harassment, which peaked in 10th grade at 38.8%, declining to 32% in 12th grade. And for electronic coercion, which started at 31% in 9th grade and increased to 39% in 10th grade, declined to 32% in 11th grade and 31% in 12th grade.
Interestingly, protective factors such as parental monitoring helped with early adolescents, but were less effective with older teens. These trends may reflect the way that teens develop independence over time, or there may be other factors yet to be studied.
Those of us who work with teens know that negative social media can be a problem. It is also difficult to find the right balance between protecting young people and recognizing their independence. Watching studies such as this can at least help us quantify the problem and know what trends to watch for.