Large-Scale Survey Reveals How Students Are Using Social Media in 2024

January 29, 2024

For the past four years, our team at The Social Institute has polled students across the nation on how they are navigating social media and tech and how it impacts their well-being. Our 2024 Student Insights Report features insights from more students than ever before: 29,000 students participated in our Annual Student Survey and more than one million responses were collected through our K-12 learning platform, #WinAtSocial.  

The results? A treasure trove of insights into the ever-evolving world of social media and tech, and how it can positively impact students’ learning and well-being.

A lot has changed since our first survey four years ago -- once popular apps have come and gone (take BeReal, which had a huge following and then fizzled). More and more, students are using technology at younger ages, with most students now getting their first cell phone when they are 11 years old. But one thing has remained consistent, year after year: social media is how students are social. Now more than ever, tech isn't just a part of a student’s life; it is their life.

In a world dominated by social platforms, families, and educators worry that students might lose their ability to form genuine connections -- and rightfully so. Last summer, the U.S. Surgeon General raised concerns about the impact of social media on youth mental health and referred to an epidemic of loneliness. The good news? Social media can be a positive way for teens to connect with friends and long-distance relatives and engage with communities that share their interests. It also serves as a way to engage with and learn from others from different backgrounds and cultures to broaden their worldview.

With connections like these so readily at students’ fingertips, learning is more social than ever before. Instead of solitary learning, forward-thinking schools are embracing interactive discussions and meaningful moments to foster students’ modern life skills that will empower them to navigate their tech-fueled and social media-filled lives. Teachers are opting for roundtable discussions over lecture-led experiences, and parents are actively engaging with their children on topics like screen time management and handling sensitive online content.

But in order to best serve students, we need to first understand them -- their challenges, their passions, how they are navigating social media, and what it means to them. That’s where our annual report comes in. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from this year’s student social report: 

  • Nearly 75 percent of students say social media is the most popular way to get news. Armed with this knowledge, educators and parents can empower students on ways to spot misinformation, disinformation, and biased news sources.

  • Almost half of 7th-grade students say they feel the need to respond to a text within 10 minutes of receiving it, or even sooner. Parents and educators can empower students to use device settings, like Focus and Do Not Disturb, or in-app settings, like TikTok’s Screen Time Limit feature to Strike a Balance and manage digital distractions.

  • 64 percent of 10th-grade students say their social media profile genuinely reflects who they are. Encourage your own students to play to their core by reflecting their values, character, and interests in their actions online.

  • A majority of students in grades 3 - 12 said social media can help them develop relationships, make a positive impact in their community, and explore hobbies and interests. When used in positive ways, social media can combat that epidemic of loneliness.  

And for those of us trying to keep up with social media trends, here are the most popular emojis, versus those deemed “out of touch” by students today:

The bottom line -- the more that educators and parents can understand students, the more effectively we can empower them to navigate their social world to fuel their well-being and create impactful learning environments. Dive into even more insights here, and then huddle with your own kids to learn what they love most about social media and technology.  

Written by

Laura Tierney

Laura Tierney is the Founder and CEO of The Social Institute, empowering students and their role models to navigate social-emotional health, social media, and technology positively. A social media expert, educator, and technologist, she created the pioneering, best-in-class #WinAtSocial Program by combining her standout sports leadership experience with her career managing social media for world-class brands. As a digital native herself, she is bridging the gap between adults and students as the nation’s leader in positive social media education that students respect.