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Anderson Cooper Investigates Revenge Porn, Cyber-Bullying and Phone-Obsessed Teens in #Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens

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Being a teenager is difficult for everyone, but being a teenager in the age of social media? That’s even tougher than you could possibly imagine.

Anderson Cooper‘s latest special #Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens showcases the results of a two-year investigation in which the CNN host accessed the social media accounts of hundreds of eighth graders across the country and conducted in-depth interviews with their families and social psychologists in order to find out what’s really going on in the minds and phones of real teenagers.

One of the biggest things that Cooper discovered was just how attached most teenagers were to their phones. Some of the middle-schoolers surveyed admitted to checking their social media accounts more than 100 times a day – much more frequently than they actually post – and after Cooper asked parents of the students participating to take away their teens’ phones for three days, one even broke down crying. (Although, her sister did offer to make it all little easier by taking pictures and sending them to her.)

“You can just feel the life being drained right out of you. It sucks it right out of you, because they don’t have any way of communicating with you,” Christine, mother of 13 year-old Emmy, tells Cooper. “As soon as you take the phone away, then they actually talk to you.”

And with that dependence on technology and social media comes a whole host of other problems. Namely, the myriad ways that teenagers use social media to attack and hurt one another, including cyber-bulling to subtweeting.


Online aggression can range from intentionally not tagging someone on Instagram to outright insults and threats of violence that they leave on each other’s accounts.

“Go die. Stop trying to be popular,” Cooper quotes from one of the many online attacks that his team unearthed. “Holy s— your [sic] ugly.” (And that’s one of the tamer ones!)

How can people talk to each other that way? Studies have shown that communicating online makes it easier for them to remove themselves from the situation, allowing them to speak to one another in ways they would never imagine doing in person.


Still, passive-aggressive social media updates and even cyber-bullying are not nearly as devastating as revenge porn, a practice in which people post private, often sexualized photos of someone they used to date in a public space, allowing it to spread around – which can have horrific consequences.

“When they’re hurt, when they’re furious, when they go through a breakup, which is very intense and difficult at this young age,” Dr. Marion Underwood, an expert on social aggression and digital communication amongst adolescents reveals. “Unfortunately, I think they’re likely to use social media to get back at the person by sharing inappropriate pictures, the “perfect ammunition.”


Of course, the #Being13 special isn’t just about understanding the way teenagers interact with one another now It’s about understanding what it’s really like being a teenager, and all of the scary, difficult and emotional complications that come with it.

To celebrate that, CNN is also starting a #Being13 social media campaign, where celebrities will submit photos of themselves at 13 and share what they remember about their teenage years using the hashtag #Being13in3words.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what Chris Pratt, Anna Faris, Monica Lewinsky, Kelly Ripa, Andy Cohen, Kathy Griffin and Diane von Furstenberg were like as teenagers, you should probably check out Twitter on Monday before #Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens airs at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.