Majority thinks social media harmful to young people

By Sharon Machlis

More than half of American adults believe that social media harm young people's social development, according to a nationwide poll of registered voters conducted this week.

As you might expect, younger adults had a more favorable view of social media. Less than half of those age 18 to 29 said young people's social media activities on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere are harmful; all other age groups had a majority with negative views on the question.

But here's what surprised me in the poll data: There's also a large opinion schism on this by political affiliation. A whopping 65% of Republicans said social networking was harmful; only 40% of Democrats thought it negatively affected social development. (Independents, not surprisingly, came down somewhere in between.)

Overall, 19.9% of those polled said social media activity is helpful for young people's social skills, 52.5% said it's harmful, 17% saw no difference and 10.6% had no opinion. The margin of error is unknown for the age and political demographic slices; it's +/- 3% for those overall totals (I assume at the common 95% confidence level, but the poll resultbreakdown doesn't say).

Of course, this says nothing about whether social media actually is harmful, just what adults believe in this snapshot of time. (A poll in 2007 showed Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama 59%-36%. Doesn't take long for opinions by political affiliation to shift....)

Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her e-mail address is You can follow her on Twitter  @sharon000, on Facebook, on Google+ or by subscribing to her RSS feeds:
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