Pew Research Center recently released the findings from its every-once-in-a-while (previously in 2015 and 2018) survey of American teenagers and their social media habits. Spoiler alert: Kids like TikTok, and they’re online a lot. But there’s more here. My top 5 takeaways:
- TikTok and Snapchat are Gen Z platforms, with their built-in photo and video editing tools and comparatively lower numbers of old people. A quarter of teens who use Snapchat or TikTok say they use these apps almost constantly. TikTok, which broke into North America in 2018, now has a billion users worldwide. Only one of three U.S. teens is not on TikTok. They like Instagram too, but not everyone is a beautiful person or has older siblings.
- Facebook is old, and so are the people who use it. Respectfully, as my almost-teen daughter would say
- Online all the time. Well, not exactly. And it depends how you define “almost constantly.” But if you survey a group of teenagers, and 46% of them admit to being online “almost constantly,” you can assume the true number is higher and probably much higher. Wonder how polling gets it wrong sometimes? Here’s one reason: People don’t always tell the truth. Teenagers especially don’t always tell the truth. Still, the number of teenagers who say they are chronically online has nearly doubled since 2015. At least.
- So maybe boys and girls are different. This is the most interesting stuff in the report, the differences by demography. More than half of Black and Latino teens say they’re online almost constantly, compared to 37% of white teens. Teen boys are more likely than teen girls to say they use YouTube, Twitch and Reddit. Teen girls are more likely than teen boys to use TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat. The lower the household income, the more likely those teens are still on Facebook. What does it all mean? I don’t know. Discuss.
- They all have phones, either theirs or yours. Since 2015, there has been a 22-percentage point rise in the share of teens who report having access to a smartphone. That may seem small, but there was little room to grow, and now there’s none. Among the youngest cohort in this group, ages 13 and 14, 91% of them have access to a smartphone. I think Pew can stop asking this question.
A couple more things before we sign off on this topic:
- YouTube is a really powerful platform, and you see its teen use at the top of Pew’s charts. I didn’t talk about it here. Remember the old Sesame Street song, “One of These Things is Not Like the Other”? That’s why. I use the dictionary and AP Style guide a lot. Doesn’t mean they’re my favorite books.
- Popularity doesn’t mean profitability, e.g., see Snap’s Aug. 31 announcement laying off 20 percent of its employees.
- Love note to Pew: Please do this survey more often than every four years. The report draws comparisons here back to 2015 because the questions shifted a bit in the 2018 survey. But 2015 was a long time ago, especially in platform years. I think Obama was still president.
- But it’s a great read, and it gives you some insight into how social media habits among teens have changed since
the pandemicObama’s second term. Highly recommend a more thorough review of the data at Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022 | Pew Research Center.