Americans are greatly concerned about social media’s impact on children
A new Knight Foundation poll conducted by Ipsos finds that a significant majority of Americans are concerned about the impact of social media on children, particularly when it comes to mental health and inappropriate content being shown to children. They say that it is important for the federal government to address issues involving children. However, they also see parents are responsible for their kids. By contrast, the poll finds less concern among Americans about censorship or “being canceled” on social media.
1. A strong majority of Americans show concern about the pitfalls of social media, particularly the impact it has on children.
- Eighty-six percent are concerned about the impact of social media on children’s mental health, including a slim majority that are very concerned (55%).
- A similar percentage of Americans show concern about algorithms serving inappropriate online content to children (82%) and online advertisements that target children (80%).
- Americans that find these issues to be concerning believe multiple parties should be responsible for preventing harms. Fundamentally the public sees social media companies as responsible for what they are showing, but ultimately parents are responsible for their kids.
- Fifty-one percent believe parents are most responsible for keeping social media from negatively impacting children’s mental health.
- A plurality believe social media companies should be responsible for preventing algorithms serving inappropriate online content to children (42%) and for online advertisements that target children (36%).
2. Americans also show significant concern over technology companies collecting personal data, as well as false or misleading information. There is much less concern over censorship or anti-competitive practices.
- Eighty-two percent of Americans are concerned about technology companies collecting personal data.
- Likewise, 82% are also concerned about false or misleading information on social media. Partisan divides exist here, as Democrats (89%) and independents (82%) are more likely than Republicans (77%) to share this sentiment.
- A majority of Americans also report concern over bullying on social media (76%) and anticompetitive business practices by technology companies (63%).
- One issue where there is less worry is censorship or being “canceled” on social media. Less than half (46%) are concerned about this issue, with Republicans (63%) much more likely than Democrats (33%) and independents (46%) to be concerned.
3. Similar to issues involving children and social media, Americans that find these issues concerning believe multiple parties should bear responsibility. Government is seen as responsible for creating a fair market, while social media companies are responsible for content they host.
- A majority believe the federal government is most responsible for preventing technology companies from collecting personal data (53%) and stopping anticompetitive business practices by technology companies (54%).
- In contrast, a plurality holds social media companies most responsible for false or misleading information (48%) and censorship (38%). Americans that find these issues concerning are split between social media companies (34%) and parents (33%) on who should bear the most accountability for bullying on social media.
4. Americans believe that, when it comes to social media, it is most important for the federal government to address algorithms serving inappropriate content to children and the collection of personal data by technology companies.
- Forty-two percent believe it is most important for the federal government to address algorithms that serve inappropriate content to children. A similar percentage say the same of technology companies collecting personal data and the impact of social media on children’s mental health (38% each).
- Older Americans place more importance on these issues than their younger counterparts.
- Second tier issues for the federal government to address include online advertisements that target children (34%), false or misleading information on social media (34%) and bullying on social media (32%).
- Lastly, few Americans believe censorship (16%) is the most important issue for the federal government to address when it comes to social media. Republicans (20%) are more likely than Democrats (12%) and independents (14%) to view this issue as important.
About the Study
This Knight Foundation poll conducted by Ipsos was conducted January 27 to January 29, 2023, using the probability-based KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,021 adults age 18 or older. The sample includes 296 Democrats, 285 Republicans, and 324 independents.
The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available households in the U.S. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.
The study was conducted in English. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, and household income. The demographic benchmarks came from the 2022 March Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS). The weighting categories were as follows:
- Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45-59 and 60+)
- Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other, Non-Hispanic, Hispanic, 2+ Races, Non-Hispanic)
- Education (Less than High School, High School, Some College, Bachelor or higher)
- Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
- Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
- Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)
The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.19. For Democrats, the margin of sampling error is 6.1 and the design effect is 1.16. For Republicans, the margin of sampling error is 6.1 and the design effect is 1.12. For independents, the margin of sampling error is 5.8 and the design effect is 1.15. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. Sampling error is only one potential source of error. There may be other unmeasured non-sampling error in this or any poll. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.
Ipsos is one of the largest market research and polling companies globally, operating in 90 markets and employing over 18,000 people.
Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.
Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).
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