US thinktank Pew Research Centre has produced an in-depth study of the way teens – who it defines as being aged 13 to 17 – interact with digital technology and the impact it has on their friendships.
While some of the findings are predictable – such as high levels of social media, messaging and smartphone use – other findings help shed light on the types of challenges faced by a digitally-native generation.
Here are four of the more surprising trends the researchers identified:
1. Password sharing
One very interesting statistic in the Pew Research Centre study is that one in five teens have shared a password with a friend. The more social media services a teen uses, the more likely they are to share passwords – one in three teens that use more than five services engage in password sharing.
“Sharing passwords is often about showing trust in peers or partners,” the researchers said.
“A high school girl in one of our focus groups described a social media game that highlights this: “I know they have this game on Instagram where you'd be like, ‘do you trust me? Give me your password and I'll post a picture and then log back off.’”
Some teens said close friends could even just guess what passwords might be, according to the report.
“They know your email and they know your question would be ‘what's your favourite city?’ They know those questions because they know you,” one boy said. “They can easily get into your account.”
2. Too much information
Over 80 percent of the teens surveyed by Pew say social media “makes them more connected to information about what is happening in their friends’ lives.”
This is not particularly surprising – but what is is that 88 percent of teens think they are “sometimes too connected to their friends’ lives” and that “people share too much information about themselves on social media".
In other words, a higher percentage of teens find social media overly revealing than they do useful.
3. Haunted by online ghosts
Forget concerns with employers dredging up past social media histories in their vetting processes – teens are already doing that to each other.
Pew Research Centre found 68 percent of teens had “witnessed people stirring up drama” on social media, with one of the key ways being “digging through people’s online profiles and resurfacing social media postings".
“Sometimes it's just old drama that just comes back up. And some people might scroll down there. Like look at their past and be like, six months ago ... oh yeah. Don't you remember that day when you had this such and such?” one high school girl told the researchers.
“And then the other person that was involved would be like, oh yeah, so you had so much to say. …So now it's a fight because [of] something that happened six months ago.”
4. Gaming helps boys connect
That teens play video games in large numbers isn’t surprising, but the impact gaming has on connections with friends is interesting.
Pew Research found 38 percent of all teen boys “share their gaming handle as one of the first three pieces of information exchanged with someone they would like to be friends with”, compared to 7 percent of girls.
Boys are also far more likely than girls to feel connected to other networked gamers – both those they know and those they don’t know.