For all the time they spend online, and it's a lot, nearly half of US teenagers say they'd much rather spend time with friends in the real world, a major survey published Tuesday indicated.
Nine out of 10 young Americans aged 13 to 17 who took part in the national survey for Common Sense Media, a San Francisco think tank, acknowledged using some form of social networking.
Seventy five percent maintained a social networking site of their own, with Facebook far and away the most popular choice, and 51 percent checked their sites at least once a day.
Yet 49 percent identified seeing friends in person as their favorite way to communicate with them, mostly because "it's more fun" and "I can understand what people really mean better this way."
Thirty-three percent favored texting, while only seven percent preferred a social networking site -- and in a sign of how times have changed, a mere four percent favored talking over the telephone.
"Teens see new technology as a supplement for communicating with people, rather than a replacement," said Victoria Rideout, a San Francisco consultant who wrote up the findings.
"It's a way to maintain a connection when you're not together in person... (and) that's an important context for us to have as we think about kids and social media," she told AFP in a telephone interview.
Common Sense Media was founded by Jim Steyer, a civil rights lawyer, Stanford University professor and father of four, to stimulate a far-ranging debate on the impact of social media, for better or worse, on families today.
Its findings Tuesday came a day after another, more alarmist survey from McAfee, the Internet security giant that bundles parental controls into the anti-virus software it markets to families.
It said that more than 70 percent of the 1,004 teens aged 13 to 17 it interviewed have come up with ways to avoid parental monitoring of their online activities, up from 45 percent from a previous McAfee survey two years ago.
On average, McAfee said, US teenagers spend about five hours a day online, and 10.3 percent spend more than 10 hours. Parents, however, thought their youngsters' average daily Internet time was three hours.
"The fact is that allowing teens to participate in unmonitored online activity exposes them to real dangers with real consequences, and these dangers are growing exponentially with the proliferation of social networks," it said.
Rideout, however, said the Common Sense Media study, titled "Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives," revealed that teenagers may be smarter users of social media than commonly thought.
Based on online interviews with 1,030 teenagers in February and March, it is the first of its kind to ask adolescents themselves how social media touches their social and emotional well-being.
Fifty-two percent thought social media helped their friendships; 29 percent thought it made them feel more outgoing, and 10 percent said it made them feel less depressed.
Interestingly, 43 percent said they wished they could get away from social media sometimes -- a desire most strongly felt among those who had had bad experiences online, such as racist, sexist or homophobic content.
Forty-one percent acknowledged they were "addicted" to their smartphones or other mobile devices, and 36 percent said that sometimes, they longed to go back to a time when Facebook did not exist.