Survey results show how students are using social media and devices

Social media use among young people has been linked to everything from mental health struggles to increased ability to find supportive communities, so it’s important that families and educators have an understanding of how students are interacting with social media.

The Social Institute — which operates a gamified, online learning platform that equips students, educators and families to navigate online social experiences in healthy ways — released its 2024 Social Student Report, built on insights from nearly 30,000 students in the Institute’s Annual Student Survey and more than 1 million responses from K-12 students at schools across the U.S. and Canada.

It includes findings related to how educators are navigating the use of technology and artificial intelligence in the classroom, how students navigate common types of interactions on social media and more.

A supplemental report, 2024 Student Insights Report: How Social Media, Tech, and Current Events Impact Student Well-being, provides a detailed look at the top apps and devices students are using daily and tips on how to navigate some of the most popular ones; real-time insights into how students are navigating everyday situations related to social media, technology and current events; and the positive impact social media has on students’ lives, according to students.

“These insights are invaluable for educators, because the better you understand students, the more effectively you can empower them to navigate their social world — including social media and technology — to fuel their health, happiness and future success,” Laura Tierney, founder and CEO of The Social Institute, said in a statement. “As a team of digital natives and educators, we have seen first-hand how this ever-changing, complex world of technology impacts students.”

Key findings from the supplemental report show:

  • The majority of students are getting their first smartphone at 11 years old
  • The most popular way of getting news in on social media, 73 percent of students report
  • Among ninth to 12th graders, 87 percent say social media helps them explore hobbies and interests
  • Sixty percent of sixth to eighth graders say social media helps them learn social skills
  • Sixty-one percent of third to fifth graders say social media helps them do well in school
  • When it comes to use of devices, 48 percent of 6th-grade students said they would speak up if a family member is using their phone while driving, and 49 percent of 7th-grade students say they feel the need to respond to a text within 10 minutes of receiving it, or even sooner.

Such findings come at a time when 77 percent of U.S. schools report prohibiting cellphones at school for non-academic use, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, while educators across the country lament increasing and inappropriate use of phones in the classroom.

And on May 23, 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory on the impact of social media use on youth mental health, identifying youth mental health as an urgent public health issue and offering recommendations for addressing it. In December, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report calling on social media companies, Congress, the U.S. Department of Education and others to minimize the harm of social media use on adolescents’ health while maximizing its benefits. A full recap can be found here.