It’s been years since Facebook last topped the teen social media charts, yet somehow the platform is still losing ground with young people. The social media site is now used by less than a third of U.S. teenagers, according to new survey data from the Pew Research Center, released Wednesday. That’s down from 71% of teens in 2014-2015 and 51% in 2018.
(Among adults, on the other hand, 2021 Pew data suggested that Facebook remains a social media stronghold, retaining about 69% of U.S. adults.)
However, across age groups, the apparent big tech winner is YouTube. The video site emerged victorious among all ten of the platforms included in the most recent teen survey, and 95% of U.S. youth reported that they use YouTube (up from 85% in 2018). It was the top used platform among adults in 2021 too.
When it comes to more traditionally “social media”-specific sites and apps, the new report further confirmed that TikTok has quickly become the reining teen-champ. 67% of polled teenagers reported using the platform, and 16% say they’re on TikTok “almost constantly.” Instagram and Snapchat followed close behind, with 62% and 59% percent of teens responding that they use those platforms respectively.
Those Insta and Snap percentages are up from the 2014-2015 survey (51% and 41% respectively), but notably down compared with the 2018 data. Four years ago, Pew reported that 72% of polled teenagers said they use Instagram and 69% say they use Snapchat. One big caveat: in the most recent Pew study, the Research Center noted that the 2018 survey methods differed and that “direct comparisons cannot be made across the two surveys due to differences in the ways the surveys were conducted.”
Regardless, relatively few teenagers seem to be on the other online platforms included in the Pew research: Twitter (23%), Twitch (20%), WhatsApp (17%), Reddit (14%), and Tumblr (just 5%). And teen usage numbers were down across all those platforms between 2022 and 2014-2015. Fun fact: Pew noted that “two of the platforms the Center tracked in the earlier [2014-2015] survey – Vine and Google+ – no longer exist.”
In addition to cataloging Facebook’s ongoing failure to reach the youth, and the specific sites that teens do like, the Pew report noted other, broader trends in youth internet usage. For instance, that 97% of teens reported using the internet daily, and that nearly half said they’re online “almost constantly.” These values are both up from previous Pew reports. More than a third of all teenagers said they are on one the top five online platforms “almost constantly.”
The data also indicated differences in internet and social media usage across gender, race, and income levels. Teen boys, for example, are apparently more likely to report using YouTube, Twitch, and Reddit (all popular for gamers)—while girls more commonly said they’re on TikTok, Insta, and Snap. Black and Hispanic teens reported being on the internet more frequently than their white counterparts. And “constant” internet usage was most commonly reported by teens living in households with annual incomes of $30,000-$75,999.
So, how do teenagers feel about all that time spent online? More than half of the teens who reported near constant internet usage also said they thought they were spending too much time on social media. And more than half of teens also said that it would be either hard or very hard to give up social media entirely.
Social media companies have been struggling recently, releasing less than stellar quarterly financial reports and announcing layoffs amid an apparent tech downturn. But if the teens are the future, then maybe these internet behemoths don’t have that much to worry about after all. The specifics of platform popularity have shifted over time, but one thing remains consistent: the teens are hooked on social media and even if they’d like to leave, they’re not.