Trends in Teenagers - Social Media Use

Teenagers Show Less Enthusiasm for Top Social Networking Site

Social networking frenzy
Social networking frenzy. Getty Images/Ian McKinnell

Kids' Facebook use appears to be waning, or at least their enthusiasm for it is, at the same time that teenagers' use of other social networks and media appears to be growing. Overall, teens are sharing a lot more about themselves on social networks than they were a few years ago.

Those are just a few of the interesting findings in a May 2013 report from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life project.

Titled, "Teens, Social Media, and Privacy," the report found that teenagers expressed "waning enthusiasm for Facebook"and "widespread negative feelings" about their experiences on the massive social network., even though a majority of those surveyed still use it. (See the full report.)

Those negative attitudes apparently don't keep teens from Facebooking, though. Pew reported that 77 percent of American teens who use the Internet still use Facebook, which they regard as a social necessity even though they're annoyed by how many adults have joined it, as well as by the "inanity" and "drama" of what people post.

New Social Networks Catch Teens' Eye

Twitter, by contrast, appears to be gaining momentum with the younger set. While fewer teenagers use Twitter than Facebook, Twitter has steadily been attracting increasing numbers of young users, researchers found. Pew's survey of American teens found that one in four are using Twitter, up from just 16 percent in 2011.

Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and other newer social networks seemed to draw more upbeat comments and generate excitement in the teens who were interviewed, according to the report. Of all the teens who say they are on social networks, 94 percent say they have a profile on Facebook, 26 percent have a Twitter profile, and 11 percent have an Instagram profile.

Kids Feel Facebook Pressure

The researchers held focus groups to talk to teens about their social networking habits. The found that while some teens said they enjoyed using Facebook, "far more associated it with constraints through an increasing adult presence, high-pressure or otherwise negative social interactions ('drama'), or feeling overwhelmed by others who share too much."

The report went in some depth to explore the psychology and sociology of kids' Facebook practices, explaining how they use likes, posts and tagging to bolster their "social position" or popularity. Feeling pressure to master the kind of posting and tagging behaviors that will attract a lot of "likes" and make them look more popular may be one reason why teenagers expressed unease over using Facebook.

Data on Teenagers Social Networking Habits

A few other notable findings about teens and social media:

  • The typical teenage Facebook user has 300 "friends" on the network, compared to 79 Twitter followers. Those are median numbers, meaning half of all teen users have more and half have fewer.
  • More than half of teens (60 percent) have their Facebook accounts set to private, meaning they are not open to the public, only to their friends. Most also said they are confident in their ability to manage their Facebook privacy settings.
  • By contrast, most teens have their Twitter account open to the public, with only 24 percent keeping their tweets private
  • Some 92 percent of teens active on social networks have posted their real names to the profile they use the most
  • The items most frequently shared are personal photos: Some 91% of teens reported posting a photo of themselves, much higher than the 79% who said the same in 2006.
  • Perhaps most surprising, a majority of teens--62 percent--reported they have shared their "relationship status" on Facebook

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