- Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018
- is no longer the dominant online platform among teens
- Teens have mixed views on the impact of social media on their lives
- Vast majority of teens have access to a home computer or smartphone
- A growing share of teens describe their internet use as near-constant
- A majority of both boys and girls play video games, but gaming is nearly universal for boys
- Why Your Teenager Loves Snapchat
- Snapchat from a Teen’s Perspective
- The Parents Perspective
- Why Parents Misunderstand Snapchat
- The Truth About Snapchat
- The Negatives of Snapchat
- Summing Up
- Snapchat: Is It Safe for My Teen?
- Dangers of Snapchat: Sexting and Cyberbullying
- Other Snapchat Features
- Discuss the Risks of Snapchat With Your Teen
Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images News via Getty Images)
Until recently, had dominated the social media landscape among America’s youth – but it is no longer the most popular online platform among teens, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Today, roughly half (51%) of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they use , notably lower than the shares who use , Instagram or Snapchat.
This shift in teens’ social media use is just one example of how the technology landscape for young people has evolved since the Center’s last survey of teens and technology use in 2014-2015.
Most notably, smartphone ownership has become a nearly ubiquitous element of teen life: 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one.
These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.
The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.
These are some of the main findings from the Center’s survey of U.S. teens conducted March 7-April 10, 2018. Throughout the report, “teens” refers to those ages 13 to 17.
is no longer the dominant online platform among teens
The social media landscape in which teens reside looks markedly different than it did as recently as three years ago. In the Center’s 2014-2015 survey of teen social media use, 71% of teens reported being users. No other platform was used by a clear majority of teens at the time: Around half (52%) of teens said they used Instagram, while 41% reported using Snapchat.
In 2018, three online platforms other than – , Instagram and Snapchat – are used by sizable majorities of this age group. Meanwhile, 51% of teens now say they use . The shares of teens who use and Tumblr are largely comparable to the shares who did so in the 2014-2015 survey.
For the most part, teens tend to use similar platforms regardless of their demographic characteristics, but there are exceptions.
Notably, lower-income teens are more ly to gravitate toward than those from higher-income households – a trend consistent with previous Center surveys.
Seven-in-ten teens living in households earning less than $30,000 a year say they use , compared with 36% whose annual family income is $75,000 or more. (For details on social media platform use by different demographic groups, see Appendix A.)
It is important to note there were some changes in question wording between Pew Research Center’s 2014-2015 and 2018 surveys of teen social media use. and Reddit were not included as options in the 2014-2015 survey but were included in the current survey.
In addition, the 2014-2015 survey required respondents to provide an explicit response for whether or not they used each platform, while the 2018 survey presented respondents with a list of sites and allowed them to select the ones they use.
Even so, it is clear the social media environment today revolves less around a single platform than it did three years ago.
When it comes to which one of these online platforms teens use the most, roughly one-third say they visit Snapchat (35%) or (32%) most often, while 15% say the same of Instagram. By comparison, 10% of teens say is their most-used online platform, and even fewer cite , Reddit or Tumblr as the site they visit most often.
Again, lower-income teens are far more ly than those from higher income households to say is the online platform they use most often (22% vs. 4%). There are also some differences related to gender and to race and ethnicity when it comes to teens’ most-used sites.
Girls are more ly than boys to say Snapchat is the site they use most often (42% vs. 29%), while boys are more inclined than girls to identify as their go-to platform (39% vs. 25%).
Additionally, white teens (41%) are more ly than Hispanic (29%) or black (23%) teens to say Snapchat is the online platform they use most often, while black teens are more ly than whites to identify as their most used site (26% vs. 7%).
Teens have mixed views on the impact of social media on their lives
Despite the nearly ubiquitous presence of social media in their lives, there is no clear consensus among teens about these platforms’ ultimate impact on people their age.
A plurality of teens (45%) believe social media has a neither positive nor negative effect on people their age.
Meanwhile, roughly three-in-ten teens (31%) say social media has had a mostly positive impact, while 24% describe its effect as mostly negative.
Given the opportunity to explain their views in their own words, teens who say social media has had a mostly positive effect tended to stress issues related to connectivity and connection with others.
Some 40% of these respondents said that social media has had a positive impact because it helps them keep in touch and interact with others.
Many of these responses emphasize how social media has made it easier to communicate with family and friends and to connect with new people:
“I think social media have a positive effect because it lets you talk to family members far away.” (Girl, age 14)
“I feel that social media can make people my age feel less lonely or alone. It creates a space where you can interact with people.” (Girl, age 15)
“It enables people to connect with friends easily and be able to make new friends as well.” (Boy, age 15)
Others in this group cite the greater access to news and information that social media facilitates (16%), or being able to connect with people who share similar interests (15%):
“My mom had to get a ride to the library to get what I have in my hand all the time. She reminds me of that a lot.” (Girl, age 14)
“It has given many kids my age an outlet to express their opinions and emotions, and connect with people who feel the same way.” (Girl, age 15)
Smaller shares argue that social media is a good venue for entertainment (9%), that it offers a space for self-expression (7%) or that it allows teens to get support from others (5%) or to learn new things in general (4%).
“Because a lot of things created or made can spread joy.” (Boy, age 17)
“[Social media] allows us to communicate freely and see what everyone else is doing. [It] gives us a voice that can reach many people.” (Boy, age 15)
“We can connect easier with people from different places and we are more ly to ask for help through social media which can save people.” (Girl, age 15)
There is slightly less consensus among teens who say social media has had a mostly negative effect on people their age. The top response (mentioned by 27% of these teens) is that social media has led to more bullying and the overall spread of rumors.
“Gives people a bigger audience to speak and teach hate and belittle each other.” (Boy, age 13)
“People can say whatever they want with anonymity and I think that has a negative impact.” (Boy, age 15)
“Because teens are killing people all because of the things they see on social media or because of the things that happened on social media.” (Girl, age 14)
Meanwhile, 17% of these respondents feel these platforms harm relationships and result in less meaningful human interactions. Similar shares think social media distorts reality and gives teens an unrealistic view of other people’s lives (15%), or that teens spend too much time on social media (14%).
“It has a negative impact on social (in-person) interactions.” (Boy, age 17)
“It makes it harder for people to socialize in real life, because they become accustomed to not interacting with people in person.” (Girl, age 15)
“It provides a fake image of someone’s life. It sometimes makes me feel that their life is perfect when it is not.” (Girl, age 15)
“[Teens] would rather go scrolling on their phones instead of doing their homework, and it’s so easy to do so. It’s just a huge distraction.” (Boy, age 17)
Another 12% criticize social media for influencing teens to give in to peer pressure, while smaller shares express concerns that these sites could lead to psychological issues or drama.
Vast majority of teens have access to a home computer or smartphone
Some 95% of teens now say they have or have access to a smartphone, which represents a 22-percentage-point increase from the 73% of teens who said this in 2014-2015. Smartphone ownership is nearly universal among teens of different genders, races and ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.
A more nuanced story emerges when it comes to teens’ access to computers. While 88% of teens report having access to a desktop or laptop computer at home, access varies greatly by income level.
Fully 96% of teens from households with an annual income of $75,000 or more per year say they have access to a computer at home, but that share falls to 75% among those from households earning less than $30,000 a year.
Computer access also varies by the level of education among parents. Teens who have a parent with a bachelor’s degree or more are more ly to say they have access to a computer than teens whose parents have a high school diploma or less (94% vs. 78%).
A growing share of teens describe their internet use as near-constant
As smartphone access has become more prevalent, a growing share of teens now report using the internet on a near-constant basis.
Some 45% of teens say they use the internet “almost constantly,” a figure that has nearly doubled from the 24% who said this in the 2014-2015 survey.
Another 44% say they go online several times a day, meaning roughly nine-in-ten teens go online at least multiple times per day.
There are some differences in teens’ frequency of internet use by gender, as well as race and ethnicity. Half of teenage girls (50%) are near-constant online users, compared with 39% of teenage boys. And Hispanic teens are more ly than whites to report using the internet almost constantly (54% vs. 41%).
A majority of both boys and girls play video games, but gaming is nearly universal for boys
Overall, 84% of teens say they have or have access to a game console at home, and 90% say they play video games of any kind (whether on a computer, game console or cellphone).
While a substantial majority of girls report having access to a game console at home (75%) or playing video games in general (83%), those shares are even higher among boys.
Roughly nine-in-ten boys (92%) have or have access to a game console at home, and 97% say they play video games in some form or fashion.
There has been growth in game console ownership among Hispanic teens and teens from lower-income families since the Center’s previous study of the teen technology landscape in 2014-2015.
The share of Hispanics who say they have access to a game console at home grew by 10 percentage points during this time period.
And 85% of teens from households earning less than $30,000 a year now say they have a game console at home, up from 67% in 2014-2015.
Why Your Teenager Loves Snapchat
I’m in the generation that’s grown up on social media apps such as Snapchat. It began with sites , where I saw my parents spending most of their time. When I was older, around 11 or 12, I took to myself, attempting to uncover the mysteries that captured my parent’s interest.
Snapchat from a Teen’s Perspective
At first, I was disappointed with what I found. Most of it was people ranting about their lives or posting family pictures. At the time, however, it was all I knew how to use having just entered the world of social media. As I got older, I uncovered other means to connect with my friends. Things Instagram and Tumblr. Eventually, I came across Snapchat.
Initially, I believed Snapchat to be something I shouldn’t touch.
All I ever saw about it was that it was being used for most inappropriate things such as sexting and sending nudes, things that a 14-year-old shouldn’t get involved with. That’s where the adult perspective of the app was.
News about the app was mainly covering how the pictures you’d send would disappear. This could call for misuse, but honestly, that’s not what my generation ended up doing.
The Parents Perspective
Every time I talk about Snapchat with my parents, they never understand the appeal of it. “Don’t you just send pictures? Can’t you do that with Instagram? Is it ?” My only reply would be, “You just wouldn’t understand” because I didn’t think the appeal would make sense to adults.
So what is the perspective parents have on Snapchat? Although I’m not a parent, from what I’ve heard my parents say, and from what I’ve read online when Snapchat is brought up, parents believe that Snapchat is being used by teens to hide what they’re doing. They think that their teens are using it to send nudes, talk about things without the messages being saved, and so on. All of these things are a parent’s worst nightmare, right?
That’s not what’s really going on though…
Why Parents Misunderstand Snapchat
Parents misunderstand Snapchat because of the disappearing messages. Plain and simple, that’s the thing that scares parents the most. “What could my kid possibly want with an app that hides what they’re talking about?” However, most kids don’t even think about that aspect.
When I’m using the app, more often than not, my friends or I will set the chat to have the messages disappear in 24 hours. Honestly, the most annoying part about chatting on the app is when the message will disappear, and you’ve forgotten what you sent.
The main thing that’s appealing about the temporary snaps is when it comes to sending photos.
It’s just fun to post pictures of yourself making an ugly face, all the while knowing that the image will be deleted in a few seconds, never to see the light of day again.
It’s even more hilarious when a friend sends you a picture where they’re making a dumb face, and you quickly screenshot it, making both of you laugh at how ridiculous they look.
The appeal is mainly just knowing that you can send any photos you’d , pictures you’d never post on Instagram or , and knowing that it will be deleted once your friend has finished viewing it.
Personally, I feel as if parents wouldn’t understand that appeal, as nothing this app has cropped up while they were younger. It’s making faces at your friends from across the classroom when you were younger. It’d be just between the two of you, and no one else would get why you’re both laughing so much.
Obviously, there are many other parts of Snapchat that appeal to my generation.
The Truth About Snapchat
So, why is Snapchat so popular among teens?
First of all, the ability to keep streaks with your friends helps you feel as if you’re staying in contact with the people you’re close to, even if it’s just with a picture of yourself with the text “streaks” over that picture. For the parents reading this article, a streak is when you send someone a snap, and they send one back for multiple days in a row.
Where you see I’ve circled in red is where the number of days a streak has lasted will appear. There will be a number there with a fire emoji next to it where you see the smiley face.
Second, the ability to use the filters is incredibly fun. Seeing what new filters have been added is entertaining. And sending videos or pictures to your friends or putting them on your story is fun as well. It’s amusing to see people’s reactions when they swipe up to you doing something funny with these filters. Or people just complimenting you when you use a beauty filter.
On the bottom of the primary camera, when you click the screen, a bunch of different filters will appear that you can use, and multiple other options appear. It’s mainly just incredibly fun to mess around with these filters and the various features that Snapchat provides with the filters/lenses.
Finally, another important feature Snapchat gives teens is the ability to talk about personal matters without the possibility of those messages being seen by others.
Sometimes it’s nice to know that you can vent to a friend, or have a serious conversation, and those messages will just disappear once you’ve closed the chat.
And Snapchat warns you if someone has taken a screenshot, so it discourages people from capturing something personal you might’ve told them and sharing it with others.
There are many other aspects of Snapchat that I find appealing, and many others in my generation do as well. However, I will say that there are some negatives to the app as well…
The Negatives of Snapchat
Of course, the fears parents have about the app are valid in some cases. Some use the app to do inappropriate things; that’s just a given with disappearing messages.
Although there are a few who use the app for the purposes adults fear, things that are going to happen with every new social media site that arises. If someone is using the site intending to do inappropriate things, it doesn’t matter what the site is.
Some people use Instagram to do these things. Even is not free of this. The more people a social media app attracts, the more bad eggs will start using the app.
I can tell you that if your kid is good, they will not use this app for what you’re fearing. If they are smart, just as they should on any other social site, they will avoid the wrong side of the app. If you’re afraid of your teen encountering these things, you shouldn’t let them ever touch an electronic with connection to the internet, but that’s a ridiculous proposition.
There will always be fear when it comes to your kid having freedom and privacy. You don’t want them to make the wrong decision.
You want to know what they’re doing so you can stop them from falling into something terrible. However, they must learn how to live with social media.
In today’s age, we are dominated by social media sites and apps. Teens must have the freedom to explore and try things out online.
Snapchat is not a scary place, and if your teen wants to give it a try, I say let them! In the end, this is all from the perspective of a teen. But I believe that makes my take on this app even more valuable. Happy Snapping!
Snapchat: Is It Safe for My Teen?
You may have heard of Snapchat. It’s a popular messaging app whose unique feature is that it self-destructs photos and videos (snaps) after sending them. Users can only view their snaps once before they disappear.
Millions of teens use Snapchat every day. In fact, along with Instagram, it is one of the leading social media platforms among adolescents, according to a national survey from the University of Chicago. The study showed that 75% of American teenagers use Snapchat regularly. And more recent research has shown that teens use Snapchat mainly between their closest friends.
The app’s design seems intendedly playful and fun. You can add emojis, stickies and “doodles” to photos. You can superimpose bunny ears or a cat nose on your face—and make it animated. Indeed, many teens do use Snapchat just to exchange silly selfies or share lighthearted moments.
But parents should still be cautious about Snapchat—for the following reasons.
Dangers of Snapchat: Sexting and Cyberbullying
Snapchat’s disappearing feature makes it particularly easy for teens to share inappropriate content without getting in trouble.
In fact, some say the founders of the app initially created it for sexting. Since the picture or video will erase itself after a particular length of time (the default is 3 seconds, though users can extend it), individuals feel comfortable sending content they wouldn’t normally send via regular text messages.
For the same reason, cyberbullies feel comfortable provoking their victims on Snapchat. After all, the incriminating evidence will disappear in a few seconds.
However, there’s a catch: teens can always screenshot the snap before it disappears. So any risqué, embarrassing or harmful message sent to a peer can be sent around and shared with dozens of friends without the sender even knowing.
Intimate photos, in particular, can be used in the future for manipulation and blackmail. So even if your teen daughter thinks that it’s perfectly harmless to send a racy photo of herself to her boyfriend, tell her to think again.
In fact, Evolve’s Admissions Coordinator, Jennifer Twist, tells parents to inform their adolescents: “Imagine that any photo or post of yours can end up as a newspaper headline. If you’re not comfortable with that, don’t share it.”
Anything teens put out on social media can be shared one day with the entire world. Even things they put on Snapchat.
Other Snapchat Features
While Snapchat’s minimum age for membership is thirteen, Common Sense Media rates it as “16+” for the age-inappropriate content that teens are exposed to within the app, mainly through its Discover feature.
Through Discover, teens can view Snaps from media outlets, promotional companies, and major influencers. Such content may not always be family-friendly.
In fact, Collin Kartchner, founder of the #SavetheKids movement, has compiled a list of Snaps featured in Discover that glorify porn, sex, suicide, drugs, and other inappropriate topics.
As he once wrote, “Letting kids 12+ download Snapchat is sending your kids to a PG movie and suddenly adult content pops up this. You’d be ticked probably, yeah? Probably talk to the manager, demand a refund, make some phone calls? Why aren’t we doing this with apps our kids use?”
One of the most problematic features of Snapchat, though, is its ability to get teens addicted to the app through Snapstreaks. You get a Snapchat streak by sending Snaps to a particular contact every day for more than three consecutive days.
The longer your streak, the more you want to keep it up. And the more pressure there is not to lose it. Streaks can go on for weeks, months and yes, even years. They’ve become ways to measure friendships, and teens are becoming obsessed about maintaining their streak.
Even if it means logging into Snapchat every single day for 200 days—and counting. Some have even shared their Snapchat password to a friend to keep the streak going on their behalf if they can’t send a snap within a certain 24-hour window.
The stress, time, and energy such an activity requires can obviously become unhealthy.
Discuss the Risks of Snapchat With Your Teen
It’s important to monitor teens’ smartphone usage. However, Snapchat is worrisome because it doesn’t save the pictures and messages received. So if you’re concerned that your adolescent might be sending or receiving inappropriate content, you have no way of monitoring what’s going on—unless your teen is screenshotting, as mentioned earlier.
Additionally, its other features – Snapstreaks, Discover, and even the SnapMap (where other Snapchat users can see your teen’s location) can pose risks. Make sure to discuss privacy issues with your teen if they’re using this app, and intervene if you believe they’re spending too much time on it. Smartphone addiction can, at times, go hand-in-hand with certain mental health issues.
Originally from California, Yael combines her background in English and Psychology in her role as Content Writer for Evolve Treatment Centers.