(CN) – False narratives spread on social media have been implicated in the turbulent 2016 presidential election in the United States and the 2016 Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, while social media-savvy conspiracy theorists fan the flames around outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and the idea that climate change is a “hoax” – but most teens are staying above the fray, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center published Wednesday.
About 37 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 said social media helps people their age find trustworthy information, with only 7 percent saying social media helps “a lot” in that regard.
The survey, which looked at teens’ social media habits and experiences, notes a similar proportion of American adults responded the same way. According to a September poll by Pew, 42 percent of American adults expect the news they see on social media to be accurate.
“[M]uch like older generations, relatively few teens think of social media platforms as a source of trustworthy information,” Pew’s researchers wrote in their analysis of the results Wednesday.
In an email, lead researcher Monica Anderson didn’t directly address whether these figures are low in light of the outsized impact online misinformation has had in the United States and abroad. But “[o]ne of the interesting paradoxes we’ve found in our past research around social media,” Anderson said, “is that at least among adults, a majority still report using social media, even as they express concerns about privacy, data collection and the validity of the information they see on these platforms.”
Wednesday’s poll also found that 65 percent of teens surveyed said online groups help them determine how to feel about important issues. Meanwhile, 71 percent of teens ages 15 to 17, and 60 percent of teens ages 13 to 14, said social media helps people their age find diverse viewpoints.
“Young people…believe social media helps teens become more civically minded and exposes them to greater diversity – either through the people they interact with or the viewpoints they come across,” the researchers wrote. “[T]hey see digital environments as important spaces for youth to connect with their friends and interact with others who share similar interests.”
Pew also found most teens associate their social media use with positive emotions; 71 percent said it makes them feel included rather than excluded, and 69 percent said it makes them feel confident rather than insecure.
However, 45 percent of teens reported feeling overwhelmed by the “drama” on social media, with 13 percent saying they feel overwhelmed “a lot.” Asked why they had unfriended or unfollowed people on social media, 78 percent of this group cited drama, and 52 percent cited being bullied or seeing others bullied.
“[T]he online environment for today’s teens can be hostile and drama-filled – even if these incidents may fall short of more severe forms of cyberbullying,” the researchers wrote.
“Still,” they added, “just 4 percent of teens indicate these platforms make them feel ‘a lot’ worse about their life.”