The Latest in Teen Online Behavior

teen-girls-using-smartphonesThe reports are in. The findings tell us what we already know—Teens are addicted to their phones and to social media–Many adults are too, Are You Addicted to Social Media?

According to the latest report, Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015, by the Pew Research Center, more than half of all teens (56%) go online several times daily and roughly a quarter (24%) are online constantly.

This is not news to parents of teens many of whom who broke down and bought their child a smartphone and are now pulling their hair out figuring if 10GB in their monthly data plan is enough data. Verizon and AT&T were no dummies when they changed the structure of their plans away from minutes to data usage a few years back.

According to the Pew study, ¾ of teens now have or have access to a smartphone. This is a dramatic change in phone usage, and the “flip phones” of the very recent past are so yesterday, so yesterday. And what do teens do with their handy “pocket computers”? They go online. (BTW, why do we still call them phones since that’s merely an ancillary use of the device?)

They go online suck up data on videos and audio services and they are heavy users of social media. On the social media front, it used to be Facebook was the dominant platform among teens, and while Facebook is still important, but no longer as dominant.

teensAccording to the data, Facebook continues to be the top social platform for teens at 71% usage, but its dominance is being challenged by Instagram (52%) and Snapchat (41%). Interestingly teens in affluent homes ($100,000+ household income) have an even stronger usage of Instagram and Snapchat. Conversely Facebook’s dominance is stronger among households with less than $50,000 annual income.

girlsAnd girls are different than boys (not a surprise finding). As shown, the use of visually-oriented social media—Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr is far stronger among teenage girls than boys. And yes, boys like their toys–in this case, they are voracious players of video games.

But there are further changes on the horizon. While Facebook still dominates usage, its stated importance to teens as “most important” is eroding. According to a recent survey conducted by Piper Jaffray, the percentage of teens that identified Facebook as their “most important” social network declined from 23% in the first quarter of 2014 to 14% in the first quarter of this year. The leader in this survey was Instagram — named as the most important social network by 32% of teens this year, up from 30% last year. And Snapchat had now become the top choice for 13% of teens. So while Facebook is still the dominant social platform among all ages, including teens, the thesis that Facebook is losing some of its mojo among teens is also true and may impact social usage in years to come.

It’ll be interesting to see how online behavior evolves over time. But one thing is certain. Communication has dramatically changed among our digital youth, and since change is the status quo, we can expect more in the years to come.

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