U.S. Teens’ Social Media Activity is Diversifying, Says Pew by Natasha Lomas
Anyone in tech can tell you that Actual Teens are hallowed ground. Where teens’ tastes wander, the industry froths itself into a frenzy attempting to follow. For teens are a bellwether of dollar valuations to come. So what are American teens keen on right now? A new report by the Pew Research Center delves into the tech that matters to the kids that matter.
First startling stat: access to mobile devices is enabling a nearly quarter (24%) of teens to be online “almost constantly”. Which does rather underline why Actual Teens are so beloved by the tech industry. These eyeballs are oh-so-hungry for content to consume.
Smartphone penetration (either ownership or access to a device) stands at a not-so-surprising three-quarters (73%) of teens, according to Pew. A further 30% of teens have access to a basic mobile.
Almost all (92%) the polled teens profess to go online daily. A majority (56%) are online several times per day. While those youngsters not getting a daily tech fix are a vanishingly tiny minority: just six per cent of teens report going online only weekly. And but 12% limit their digital activity to a once per day fix.
As you’d expect, access to mobile devices drives increased teen time online, with the vast majority (94%) of teens who access the Internet on a mobile going online daily or more often.
Interestingly the research highlights some differences across different racial and ethnic groups, with African-American and Hispanic teens most likely to report being “online constantly” (34% and 32% respectively), vs 19% of white teens. But again the big driver for being most online looks to be smartphone tech — with African-American teens most likely (85%) to have or have access to a smartphone, ergo they are also more likely to be constantly online.
That said, Hispanic teens and white teens are equally likely (71%) to be able to access a smartphone — despite Hispanic teens being more likely than white teens to report being online constantly.
“American teens, especially African-American youth, have embraced smartphones and the 24/7 access to people and information that they offer,” notes Amanda Lenhart, associate director for Research at the Pew Research Center and the report’s lead author, in a statement.
So what social media services are America’s Actual Teens obsessing about? Facebook first and foremost — which remains the dominant social network for U.S. kids. A majority (71%) of these 13- to 17-year-olds report using Facebook. Next most popular is Facebook-owned photo-sharing service Instagram, used by 52% of teens. Then it’s Snapchat (41%); Twitter(33%) and Google+ (33%); Twitter-owned Vine (24%); and Tumblr (14%).
Pew notes that teens are diversifying their social network site use, with a majority (71%) reporting using more than one social network site out of the seven platform options they were asked about. Among the fifth (22%) of teens who only use one site, most (66%) use Facebook as their sole social fix, while 13% use Google+, 13% use Instagram and 3% use Snapchat.
Facebook also came out on top as the platform teens use most often, with 41% of teens identifying it as their most frequently used social service, followed by Instagram (20%), and Snapchat (11%).
The research identified some gender differences in U.S. teens’ online social activity, with boys more likely to report visiting Facebook more often (45% of boys vs 36% of girls), and girls more likely to report using Instagram than boys (23% vs 17%). Girls are also reported as generally dominating visually oriented social media platforms (including Pinterest), while boys are more likely to report gaming activity, either on a console or their smartphone. (Although it should be noted that a majority of both genders report playing games.)
Meanwhile older teens skew in favor of Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter as their most used platform, vs younger teens being a little more focused on Instagram.
Socio-economic status also influences choice of social media, with the survey finding that wealthier teens, whose families are in middle and upper income brackets, lean a little more towards using Snapchat than those from families in lower income brackets. Twitter also skews to wealthier socio-economic backgrounds teens. Conversely, teens from less well-off households are more likely to say they use Facebook the most.
Pew also investigated teens’ messaging app use. A third (33%) of teens with access to smartphones report having messaging apps such as Kik and WhatsApp — which sounds low when compared to the 90% who report exchanging texts (i.e. cellular SMS).
On the messaging app front, the researchers again found some differences among teens of different races and ethnicities. According to the report, African-American and Hispanic youth are substantially more likely to use messaging apps than white teens, with 47% of African-American teens and 46% of Hispanic using a messaging app vs just a quarter (24%) of white teens.
The report is the first in a series of forthcoming Pew reports examining American 13- to 17-year-olds use of tech. It’s not the first time the research firm has scrutinized this demographic either, although it notes it has changed its methodology for the latest report — using an online only survey method vs telephone interviews it has used in prior teen polls — so is not making like-for-like comparisons with earlier reports. The latest survey polled a nationally representative sample of 1,060 teens over two periods, one last fall, and again in spring.