A few months ago, CNN did a report called “#BeingThirteen” which studied over 200 eighth graders from around the country, and their social media feeds.

For many of us, we grew up in a world of social media 1.0 with new chat tools like AIM Instant Messenger, but we did not experience social media as it is today.

The report goes into detail about how there is no firm line between the real and online worlds of these teenagers and stresses that social media is an extension of their social lives.

In analyzing these teens and their social media activities, six key themes were detected:

  • Addicted to Each Other
    • teens consume each others’ online content far more frequently than they are posting themselves
      • Teens prefer Instagram, where the “rule” is to only post 1x day (could contribute to the above)
    • teens are not so much addicted to social media as they are addicted to each other– crave social connection and peer affirmation that social media affords.
      • has led to public praise and confidence boosting, but also extreme feelings of desperation, feelings of being left out
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
    • extreme anxieties when social media is taken away
    • 60% report having feelings of FOMO at least once per week
    • “I would rather not eat for a week than get my phone taken away. It’s really bad, I literally feel like I’m going to die.” Gia, a 13-year-old.

  • With Friends Like These…
    • social media both fuels and provides a public stage for conflict among adolescents– source of pain, often at hands of friends
  • Popularity Chess
    • many teens view social media as a popularity barometer. # of followers is important, as is like/follower ratio.
  • A World Apart from Parents
    • mention of parents is almost nonexistent on social, but usually negative
  • The Positive Side of Social Media
    • social media can also make teens feel good (ex: birthday wishes, comments on a selfie,…)
    • communal support, exaggerated positivity


Full article can be read here


  1. As an adult, has social media changed your social life, and the way you connect with others?
  2. Given the high consumption of social media among teens, do teens become more valuable consumers to brands/marketers?
  3. Is 13 the appropriate age to allow users to join social media? Do social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, have a responsibility to teach/guide digital citizenship?

2 thoughts on “#Being13

  1. I honestly can’t imagine growing up in this generation with how connected they are and how desperate they are for technology. I recently went on a family vacation where I had several of my younger cousins there. The oldest were 12, so not quite 13, but there was a constant battle between the kids and the parents about “tech time”. We were at a family house on a lake with any water activity you could dream of, and they still wanted to play on their devices. Keep in mind, the last time I was there, I was 13 and had a cell phone but that cell phone didn’t do anything and they only had basic cable hooked up. Some of my best childhood memories at this lake were playing board games (Wheel of Fortune, anyone?) with my grandparents. No technology involved.

    I think social media has magnified the issues that we faced in the early days with MySpace and AIM, how drama was created/fueled by one’s online presence, and the beginning of digital bullying. I don’t know when the right age to let kids on social media. Regardless, it is going to get younger and younger because parents will succumb to pressure from both their kids not understanding why they can’t be on Facebook but all of their friends are (FOMO coming into play here). I don’t think it totally falls on the backs of the social networks, but I do think with all of their advanced algorithms, there should be some heavy filtering going on based on a users age.

    As far as their attractiveness to marketers, this article outlines how teens are obsessed with each other. This would lead you to believe that if one person posts a picture of themselves with the new iPhone or the latest Jordans, you better believe that is a valuable tool for brands.

  2. The previous response says it all, I couldn’t agree more.

    The FOMO Factor can definitely be taken advantage of by advertisers, but… is that morally acceptable? To convince children that they won’t be good enough, or part of the big picture, if they don’t have the same toy/device/clothes/brands that their friends do? What is that going to do to self-esteem? You can already see these kids valuing their reputation more than their own lives, and that’s so sad…and you can only control so much outside influence as a parent in this modern age, sadly, without destroying your child’s reputation (you seemingly can’t win!!).

    Eventually, I think if advertisers take advantage of younger generations and the FOMO Factor, the largest offenders are going to have to be held responsible for the social effects (mass youth depression/anxiety?) sometime in the future.

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