Most teens in the U.S. still meet face-to-face the people who they date, but social media and texting are just as important in maintaining those relationships as hanging out in person, a new survey shows.
In its report Thursday, Pew Research Center revealed about one-third Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 say they have been in a romantic relationship. Of those, 8 percent say they met their romantic partner online, mostly on Facebook.
When playing coy with a crush, however, half of U.S. teens surveyed said they had flirted, “friended” or “liked” someone on social media. About one out of 10 teens said they had made a music playlist for someone with whom they were smitten.
Roughly the same amount of teens admitted to sending racy photos or videos of themselves to a romantic interest.
But the abiding wisdom that came through both in focus groups and the survey results is that if you can’t impress someone in person, you also won’t have much luck if you “poke” them on Facebook, said Amanda Lenhart, associate director for research at the Pew Research Center who focuses on how adolescents and families use technology and one of the report’s authors.
“Technology is critical, but it really stands shoulder-to-shoulder with in-person interactions,” she said.
Once those relationships are kindled, about six out of 10 teens said that social media strengthened their connection with their boyfriend or girlfriend. But more than one-quarter say what they see on social media made them jealous and uncertain about their relationship.
When it’s time to call it quits, two-thirds of teens say they broke up with someone in-person.
And despite the social stigma attached to breaking up with someone over text message versus over the phone, one is just as common as the other among U.S. teens. More than one-quarter of teen respondents said they broke up with someone via text, roughly the same as had delivered the bad news during a phone call.
“On the one hand, it is a dominant mode of communication that teens have, so it’s a logical outgrowth,” Lenhart said. “But on the other hand, we heard from teens that it’s about fear, insecurity and immaturity. They want to be sheltered from the emotional storm so they’re choosing the text mode even though they know they shouldn’t because it feels safer and easier.”