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Updated: Nov 9, 2020


Danielle Hunt, MS, LAT, ATC

Clinical Research Specialist

Do you remember a time before social media? A time before you checked your cell phone for messages or app notifications, multiple times per day? If so, you were probably born before the 2000s, as social media in the US has grown substantially within the last decade (1–3). College aged Americans are at the forefront of the social media phenomenon, with approximately 90% reporting use of at least one platform (3). This led the Sports Medicine research team at Boston Children's Hospital and The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention to conduct a study to determine how much social media a collegiate student-athlete was using per day, as well as their perceptions of their own social media usage.

We asked these athletes to record the total time spent on social media per week (hour/week), as well as the total minutes they used per app (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, & Pinterest) by accessing the “Screen Time” feature on their iPhones.


- The average student-athlete in the study spent 4.5 hours per day using various social networking platforms. 20% of their day was spent using social media.

- Usage habits were also found to differ between male and female student-athletes. See image below.

With all this time invested in their social media accounts, the research team began to think about the following question: How do these student-athletes really feel about their social media usage? We wanted to determine whether they were having positive or negative experiences while using social media, as well as a gain a more information on when exactly they were using their phones. The following perceptual questions were asked to all study participants:

Q1. Are you generally happy after checking your social media accounts?


Q2. Do you feel social media helps enhance your mood, especially when you are stressed out?


Q3. Do you use social media more when you are emotionally down such as when injured?


Q4. Do you find social media to be a distraction to everyday activities?



  • A large majority of both female (80.5%) and male (74.5%) student-athletes believed that their social media use was a distraction to everyday activities.

  • 72.1% of females and 87.3% of males noted they were generally happy after checking their social media accounts.

  • 46.5% of females and 63.6% of males felt that social media helped enhance their mood when they were stressed.

  • 52.9% of females and 69.1% of males used social media more when they were emotionally down.


Perceptions of social media, overall app usage, and duration volume differ between male and female collegiate student-athletes. Regardless of sex, this young adult population self-reported using social media at an alarming rate of 4.5 hours a day. As social media usage becomes a more regular part of society, it is important for those who work with a collegiate population, as well as student-athlete themselves, to understand why, and to what extent, they are using social media and how it is affecting their academic and athletic life.


1. Perrin A, Anderson M. Share of U.S. adults using social media, including Facebook, is mostly unchanged since 2018. Pew Research Center, Washington D.C. Published 2019.

2. Smith A, Anderson M. Social Media Use in 2018. Pew Research Center, Washington D.C. doi:10.1201/b18431-6

3. Social Media Fact Sheet. Pew Research Center, Washington D.C. Published 2019.

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