Why Americans use social media, and is it harmful for kids?

Summary:Maintaining relationships rather than founding new ones really seem to be the driving force behind social media adoption, based on a new survey from Pew Research.For starters, Pew found that 66 percent of online adults use social media platforms -- especially Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn.

Maintaining relationships rather than founding new ones really seem to be the driving force behind social media adoption, based on a new survey from Pew Research.

For starters, Pew found that 66 percent of online adults use social media platforms -- especially Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn. From there, approximately half of online adults use social media to connect with old friends with whom they've lost touch.

But more so, two thirds of respondents said they use social media to stay in touch with family members and current friends.

Other more minor reasons that popped up as social media drivers:

  • 14 percent replied connecting with people about a shared hobby or interest
  • 9 percent cited making new friends as the an important factor
  • 5 percent said they use social media to read comments by public figures

This might come across as a bit surprising, but only three percent of social media users said they subscribe to these sites for finding potential romantic partners.

For reference, this survey, conducted in English and Spanish between April 26 and May 22, is based upon the responses of 2,277 American adults.

Nevertheless, there are a strong number of people who think that social media is harmful to youth.

More than half (53 percent) of Americans replied that the increasing use of social media by young people is harmful, based on a survey by Poll Position.

Respondents between the ages of 45 and 64 felt most strongly about this, with 55.4 percent agreeing with that statement. Still, 46.5 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 concurred as well.

Only a fifth of adults thought that social media is helpful in the social development of youth, while 17 percent said it doesn't make a difference either way.

Poll Position's survey does not offer explanations as to why adults find increasing social media use is detrimental to kids, but possible reasons could include being a distraction from school, bullying and worries about security.

Poll Position's survey is based on responses from 1,200 registered voters nationwide, and it was conducted on November 13.

[First graph via Pew; Second graph via Poll Position]

Related:

Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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