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%).

Snapchat is №1, though, for frequency of use. When Pew asked its respondents what social media they use most often, 35% said Snapchat, as opposed to 32% YouTube and 15% Instagram. That might have something to do with the fact that teens use Snapchat as much for chatting (which is very much like texting, obviously a very high-frequency tech activity) as anything else.

Snapchat streaks could be a bit of a factor too. They’re a kind of game that’s unique to Snapchat whereby friends will send each other a snap every day and see how long they can keep it going (streaks can be entertaining, transactional or stressful, depending on the people involved and how they’re feeling that day; for more, see Those two factors are just speculation on my part; the important takeaway is that — because each social media service has unique features and each user has their own uses and intentions (which can vary by time of day, even!), it’s hard to generalize about its use, and solid research like this is the best possible way to get the big picture.

Incidentally, a Snap spokesperson just told me that 13–17 year-olds aren’t Snapchat’s largest age group. They actually come in at third place in the app at 20% of Snapchat’s users, after 18–24 year-olds (37%) and 25–34 year-olds (27%). People 35+ are the app’s smallest cohort at 16%.

Some more interesting highlights from this report:

Pew gave the respondents themselves a chance to describe how social media affected them positively or negatively. Please check out the report for the responses that the study’s authors chose to highlight.

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Youth advocate; blogger,; founder, The Net Safety Collaborative