The anchor’s “Anderson Cooper 360” worked with child psychologist Dr. Marion Underwood and sociologist Dr. Robert Faris to analyze hundreds of posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from eighth-graders over a period of six months. In all, 150,000 posts were analyzed and the insights will be presented Monday evening on the show at 9 p.m. in an hour-long special called “#Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens.” CNN bills the program as “the first large-scale study to analyze what kids say to each other on social media and why it matters so deeply to them.”
In an interview, Cooper said viewers will be surprised by “the degree to which 13-year-olds view what happens in social media as more important than what happens in real life.” Pre-teens “would rather be grounded than actually have their phones taken away from them,” he said.
Producers worked for two years, Cooper said, to do a full study of more than 200 kids and their social media habits.
Tonight’s report marks the fourth time that the program has partnered with academics to do a scientific pilot study and an accompanying hourlong special about child development issues. One looked at kids’ perceptions of racial issues. Another tackled bullying. The efforts have nabbed two Emmy awards.
In describing the findings, Cooper talked about any number of interesting social practices that will likely interest teens and their parents. The study found that kids often use social tagging as a means of excluding their peers. A picture of kids at a party, for example, may contain dozens of hidden messages about social status. Kids who aren’t tagged by be deemed as less popular, he said, while the picture may be posted as a means of informing those who were not invited that they are not seen as important enough to include.
Cooper likened the hour to one of CNN’s primetime documentaries, which aim to inform and present interesting worlds to viewers when breaking news does not command the national interest. “It’s great to be able to spend a lot of time on a piece like this that is not something necessarily in the day’s headlines, but it’s on the wish lists of parents out there to know the secret language that kids are using in social media,” Cooper said. “It’s good to have this information, and the more information, the better.”