Social media companies are far from a monolith, but Americans seem to spread their distrust pretty evenly between them. While only one has undergone a name change to fend off a bad PR storm in recent months, Facebook and its parent company Meta are far from alone in setting off alarm bells for parents.
But since the last time CivicScience tracked American attitudes toward children owning cell phones and using social media, U.S. parents somehow became more amenable to young children using social media accounts. Compared to August, American parents are 19% more likely to think 12 or younger is an acceptable age to get started on social media.
This trend is largely driven by young parents. Among parents who think it’s acceptable for children 12 and younger to use social media, 7-in-10 are between the ages of 18 and 34 — and nearly 40% of those comfortable with the 12-and-under set on social media are Gen Z parents.
Among all adults, conservatives are the least likely to be comfortable with younger children using social media, but moderates and liberals just narrowly outpace them when it comes to comfort with the 12-and-under set starting their own accounts. All told, not the most polarizing issue of the day.
Although the overall comfort levels are getting younger and younger, parents of children aged 12-17 are the least likely to be very comfortable with their children’s social media intake. That said, the younger age group yields the highest rate of parents who claim to be not at all comfortable with their social media habits.
Although most social media sites attract minimal trust from a vast majority of adults (Pinterest and YouTube lead the pack in trust, with a quarter of adults placing a “high or medium” level of trust in each), TikTok outpaces them all in the distrust department. Nearly nine-in-ten adults have low-to-zero trust in the platform to protect young users. But parents are less likely than the Gen Pop to trust YouTube and Instagram when it comes to protecting young users.
But among frequent users of TikTok, the trust levels dramatically spike; almost half of daily TikTok users trust the app to protect young users, with weekly and monthly users tracking close behind.
The more-established Instagram is slightly more trusted among adults than TikTok, but using the app regularly is less predictive of how much an adult might trust it. Just over one-third of all adults who use Instagram daily have a high or medium level of confidence in it protecting young users — but Instagram draws similarly poor trust levels to TikTok from adults who don’t use the app.
When it comes to some of the most popular social media sites for young users, adults are largely distrusting of services they aren’t too experienced with using, if at all. TikTok currently has an uphill battle when it comes to winning the trust of adults and parents, but if the inflated trust figures of frequent users are any indication, maybe the skeptics just have to take a scroll for themselves.