Heavy reliance on social media

Australians find life online a positive experience, maintaining connections with friends and family, but many also face pressures about how they look and how others react to their posts.


The findings are from a new survey by the Australian Psychological Society (APS).


The Digital Me survey, released today for Psychology Week (12 – 18 November), explored how social media and technology is affecting the wellbeing of Australians. More than 1,000 adults and 150 teens aged 14 – 17 years were surveyed.


The survey revealed Australians of all ages are increasingly reliant on their mobile phones, and make significant use of social media throughout the day.


Facebook and YouTube are the most commonly used platforms across all age groups and Australians are finding the experience positive.


Key findings

  • 79% of teens and 54% of adults are highly involved with their mobile phones.
  • 90% of Australians surveyed use social media, with Facebook and You Tube the most popular channels across all age groups.
  • Teens are higher users of social media than adults, logging on to their favourite platforms 5 – 9 times a day, almost every day.
  • Both teens and adults use social media throughout the day, including meal times and in the company of others.  60.3% of teens and 41.8% of adults use it just before bed.
  • Australians find social media a generally positive experience.


Self esteem:

  • The high use of social media is impacting on self- esteem, with two in three teens feeling pressure to look good.
  • Adults that were bullied were more likely to report lower self-esteem and poorer life satisfaction.
  • More Instagram users (20.6%) than non-users (12.6%) were classified as having low self-esteem.


Pressure to look good:

  • 63% of teens feel pressure to look good, and 59% feel validated when others ‘like’ their posts.
  • 51.1% adults who have a high level of phone involvement feel the pressure to look good, and 50.4% feel validated and recognised when others ‘like’ their posts.


Bullying and anti-social behaviour

  • 28.7% of teens and 20.9% of adults have been bullied on social media.
  • 35.1% of teens and 24.7% of adults have posted content they later regretted.
  • Adults who had been bullied were more likely to be highly involved with their mobile phones, spend more time on internet browsing and apps and be 18 – 34 years of age.



  • 15% of teens report being contacted daily on Facebook by strangers, and 10% make contact with strangers.  60% of parents do not monitor the online activity of their children.


APS Executive Director, Professor Lyn Littlefield, says while social media use has benefits, it’s important to be aware of the negative impact it can have on wellbeing.


She says the survey shows that Australians still face issues such as anti-social behaviour and pressure to look good, and that these are having an impact on self-esteem and wellbeing, which is a concern for psychologists.


Professor Littlefield says, “Be selective about who you involve in your online social networks, just as you would offline. The people you connect with should boost your wellbeing, not undermine it.”


Professor Littlefield says also of some concern is that teens are increasingly being contacted by and themselves contacting strangers online, but there is very little monitoring of online activity by parents.


Link to survey: View the Digital Me survey


Resources for thriving in the digital age can be found on the Compass for life website:  http://compassforlife.org.au/


APS tip sheets:


11 November 2017.