Nearly half of American teenagers say they are online “almost constantly”, according to the results of a survey published last week.
The Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022 report produced by the Pew Research Centre and Ipsos surveyed 1,316 U.S teenagers aged 13-17 earlier this year, asking them about their internet and social media habits.
Compared to Pew’s 2014-15 report, the number of teens online almost constantly has nearly doubled, from 24 per cent to 46 per cent this year.
Nearly half of girls and just over forty per cent of boys reported being online to this extent. Black and Hispanic teens (56 and 55 per cent respectively) were more likely than their white peers (37 per cent) to say they were online almost constantly. Overall, 97 per cent of teens reported using the internet daily.
The survey found YouTube to be by far the most popular website or app among teens, with 95 per cent saying they used the video-sharing site. TikTok – which only became available worldwide in 2018 – was the most popular social media platform with 67 per cent of teens using the platform, followed by Instagram at 62 per cent and Snapchat at 59 per cent.
The social media landscape has changed significantly in recent years, with some services popular when the last survey was conducted like Google+ and Vine, no longer available. Twitter and Tumblr were two social media sites that saw drops in popularity, with both losing ten per cent of teenagers who said they used the platforms since 2014-15.
The survey also found a large decrease in the popularity of Facebook among teens, with only 32 per cent reporting using the social media compared with 71 per cent back in 2014-15. Of the teens who do use Facebook, only seven per cent do so “almost constantly”, but 57 per cent report visiting the site at least daily.
TikTok is most popular among black teens, with 81 per cent using the app compared with 71 per cent and 62 per cent of Hispanic and white teens respectively. The Chinese-owned platform is also more popular with girls (73 per cent) than boys (60 per cent) and is used slightly more by teens in families with lower incomes than those with higher incomes.
Reddit is only used by 14 per cent of teens but is more popular among boys (20 per cent) and older teens (19 per cent) than with other groups. Boys are also more likely to use YouTube than girls, while Snapchat is more popular among girls. Thirty-five per cent of teens report using at least one social media “almost constantly”, with the highest numbers for YouTube and Tiktok at 19 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.
While TikTok was not around the last time Pew conducted the survey, both Instagram and Snapchat saw large gains in their popularity since 2014-15, with Instagram used by ten per cent more teens and Snapchat by 18 per cent more.
Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed last year that the company is aware of the addictive power of Instagram, in particular.
Meta “knows things like engagement-based ranking on Instagram can lead children from very innocuous topics, like healthy recipes, to anorexia-promoting content over a very short period of time,” she told Congress.
Meta did not respond to requests for comment from CNN on the results of this survey.
As smartphones have become cheaper and a more central part of teenage life, their accessibility has increased. Almost all teens now have access to smartphones (95 per cent). In the survey conducted back in 2014-15, this number was only 73 per cent.
The proportions that have access to desktop or laptop computers (90 per cent) and gaming consoles (80 per cent), on the other hand, have remained relatively constant in the last seven years.
Access to technology also appears to be relatively constant across gender and race, but lower-income teens are less likely to have gaming console accessibility, with 70 per cent of those in families earning less than $30,000 and 82 per cent of those in families with incomes of both $30,000 to $74,999 and $75,000 and above. Girls are also still less likely than boys to have access to gaming consoles.
The survey also asked teenagers to reflect on the amount of time they spend on social media. Overall, 36 per cent said they spend too much time on social media and 55 per cent believe their amount is “about right”.
Girls were more likely than boys to believe they spend too much time on social media, with 41 per cent compared to 31 per cent. Sixty-one per cent of boys believe they spend about the right amount of time compared with 50 per cent of girls. More older teenagers reported feeling they spent too much time on social media (42 per cent) than younger teens at 28 per cent. Sixty-three and 50 per cent of 13-14 year-olds and 15-17 year-olds said they felt the amount of time they spent on social media was about right.
More than half (54 per cent) of teenagers said they would find it “somewhat” or “very difficult” to give up social media. This feeling was most present for girls and teens aged 15-17 with 58 per cent of both groups agreeing. The majority of black, white and Hispanic teenagers also said they would find it difficult to give up social media.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Pew’s Director of Internet and Technology Research Lee Rainie and a co-author of the report said: “It’s an evolving landscape on multiple levels—not just the platforms themselves with different names and things, but also even individual platforms were one thing a while ago, and now are different.”
Pew Research Associate Emily Vogels, who was also a co-author, said that “without being able to interact with others in the in-person environment, [teens] were looking to see where their friends were going online, so that they could maintain those connections.”
Speaking to the Washington Post, Vogels added: “We can’t say for sure why fewer teens are using Facebook. It’s not as easy as asking them why“
“They don’t know why,” she said.