Brandon Hubacher of Fairfax Station uses his cellphone to text message friends while on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Del. Some kids cannot quit their personal technology, texting and Facebook, even on vacation, as network connections have no boundaries. (Chuck Snyder/SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON POST/C)

Many U.S. teens say they are addicted to social media and texting and often want to unplug. But they feel positive overall about how social media sites such as Facebook and text messaging have helped them connect with friends and family.

The mixed feelings that teens have about digital communication sheds new light on a population growing up immersed in online technology. Research is scant on the behavioral and developmental effects of technology on youth.

A national survey of more than 1,000 people between the ages of 13 and 17 by the child advocacy group Common Sense Media shows how pervasive mobile communications has become for that age group.

“Today’s 13- to 17-year-olds are the first generation to go through their entire teen years with such an array of digital devices and platforms,” said Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer. “This report reads like a primer for parents to teens and tweens — to help them understand how their kids are engaging with technology and to highlight any impact it might be having on their social and emotional well being.”

Text messaging is still the favored application of teens for communicating.

Two-thirds of respondents said they text every day and half said they visit social networking sites daily. One-quarter of teens use at least two different types of social media a day.

Facebook, which is considering lowering its age minimum, dominates teens, with seven out of 10 people surveyed saying they have an account compared to 6 percent for Twitter and 1 percent for GooglePlus and MySpace.

In the report called “Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives,” Common Sense Media found that their adolescent respondents felt social media was beneficial.

Half of teens said they feel social networks have helped their friendships, while only 4 percent said the platforms have hurt relationships.

Three out of 10 teens said social networks made them feel more outgoing, compared to 5 percent who said they felt more introverted.

Still, half of all respondents said real-life communication is the most fun and fruitful for their relationships. Only 4 percent prefer to talk on the phone.


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