How teens’ social media use is changing

Parents of teens probably knew this already, but the Pew Research Center just confirmed it for everybody: YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are US 13–17 year-olds’ top social media picks now — at 85%, 72% and 69%, respectively. That’s according to Pew’s just-released “Teens, Social Media and Technology 2018.” [The percentages add up to more than 100% because, as is well known, teens use multiple social media apps and services, often simultaneously.] Filling out the top 7 were Facebook in the 4th position (at 51%), followed by Twitter (32%), Tumblr (9%) and Reddit (7%).

  • Computers: 88% of teens have or have access to a laptop or desktop at home.
  • Use levels: “45%…say they are online on a near-constant basis,” up from 24% in the last survey.
  • Gaming’s huge: Not surprisingly, based on past Pew research, 90% of US teens — 97% of boys, 83% of girls — play digital games somehow (computer, console or phone), and 84% “have access to a game console at home”; 85% of teens in households earning $30,000/year a year have a game console at home, up from 67% in 2014–2015.
  • Different platforms: Teen use of Facebook has dropped 20% since Pew’s last report, where, at 71%, it was №1 among US teens. The % hasn’t changed much at Twitter and Tumblr. Pew didn’t even ask teens about YouTube in the last survey (possibly because they and society in general didn’t see it as social media). Reddit wasn’t in the last survey either.
  • Use diversifying: No single platform dominates teens’ social media use. Facebook used to.
  • Income: A big change over 10 years ago was that “lower-income teens are more likely to gravitate toward Facebook.”
  • Gender: Girls are more likely than boys to say they use Snapchat most (42% vs. 29%), and boys YouTube more (39% vs. 25%).
  • Race/ethnicity: Snapchat is used more often by white teens (41%) than Hispanic (29%) or black (23%) teens; “black teens are more likely than whites to identify Facebook as their most used site (26% vs. 7%).”
  • Teens’ views on impacts: Pew reports “no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today”; the largest percentage (45%) said the effect has been “neither positive nor negative,” 31% says the effect is mostly positive, 24% mostly negative.

Related links

  • Snap CEO Evan Spiegel’s interview with Kara Swisher on stage at the just-ended Code Conference
  • The Code Conference video of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and CTO Mike Schroepfer’s on-stage interview
  • Coverage of the Pew report at Bloomberg, the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post

Youth advocate; blogger, NetFamilyNews.org; founder, The Net Safety Collaborative

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