Social media experiences of teenagers may spill over into real life and affect their relationships, a study suggests.
According to researchers at University of California, Irvine in the US, a new digital divide appears to be emerging over the types of experiences teens have online.
In the research published in the journal Nature, Professor Candice Odgers analysed data from various existing studies.
“The evidence so far suggests that smartphones may serve as mirrors reflecting problems teens already have,” Odgers said.
“Those from low-income families said that social media experiences more frequently spilled over into real life, causing more offline fights and problems at school,” said Odgers.
In a 2015 survey by Odgers and colleagues, 10- to 15-year-olds reported high levels of regular internet access regardless of family income: 92 per cent for those from economically disadvantaged homes and 97 per cent for their more affluent peers.
The gap in smartphone ownership is even smaller, at 65 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively, researchers said.
Other studies reviewed by Odgers indicated the need for additional support from parents, schools or other community organisations for adolescents from economically disadvantaged households, who are more likely to be bullied, solicited and victimised in cyberspace
They also usually have less parental mediation, guidance and supervision of their online activities, researchers said.
“The majority of young people appear to be doing well in the digital age, and many are thriving with the new opportunities that electronic media provides.
“But those who are already struggling offline need our help online too,” Odgers said.
“Strategies that encourage parental involvement – as well as partnerships between local governments, technology companies and educational institutions – are key to ensuring that all young people, including the most vulnerable, have positive online experiences,” said Odgers.