Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015
Mobile Access Shifts Social Media Use and Other Online Activities
Accessing the internet on mobile devices
The survey shows that 91% of teens go online from a mobile device, at least occasionally.4 African-American teens are significantly more likely than whites or Hispanics to use mobile devices to go online — with nearly all African-American youth in the study reporting mobile internet access at least occasionally, while 90% of white and 91% of Hispanic teens go online on-the-go.
Internet use is a near ‘constant’ for some teens
Teens ages 13 to 17 are also going online frequently. Aided by the convenience and constant access provided by mobile phones, 92% of teens report going online daily — with 24% using the internet “almost constantly,” 56% going online several times a day, and 12% reporting once-a-day use. Just 6% of teens report going online weekly, and 2% go online less often.
Much of this frenzy of access is facilitated by mobile phones — particularly smartphones. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of teens have a smartphone while just 12% of teens 13 to 17 say they have no cell phone of any type. Fully 91% of teens go online from mobile devices at least occasionally, and 94% of these mobile teens go online daily or more often, compared with 68% of teens who do not use mobile devices to go online.
African-American and Hispanic youth report going online with greater frequency than white teens. About a third (34%) of African-American teens and 32% of Hispanic teens report going online “almost constantly,” while 19% of white teens go online that often. White teens are more likely to say they go online several times a day — the most commonly expressed frequency of internet access across all groups.
Youth from well-to-do families go online more frequently than youth from the least wealthy households; nearly all (93%) teens from homes earning more than $30,000 annually go online daily, compared with 86% of those from households earning $30,000 or less.
Texting has undergone a change in the past several years with the advent of smartphone-based messaging apps that have added features and changed the cost, message length and other structures around sending short messages. Fully 91% of teen cell owners use text messaging — either directly through their mobile phones or through an app or a website.
In a testament to the shifting landscape of texting, one third (33%) of teens with cell phones use messaging apps like Kik or WhatsApp. These apps are more likely to be used by Hispanic and African-American youth who own cell phones, with 46% of Hispanic teens and 47% of African-American teens using messaging apps to send texts, compared with one-quarter (24%) of white teens with cell phones. Teens on the lower end of the income spectrum are also more likely to use messaging apps on their smartphones, with 39% of cell-owning teens from households earning less than $50,000 annually using the apps, compared with 31% of teens from wealthier families. Girls are also a bit more likely than boys to use messaging apps, with 37% of cell-owning girls using them compared with 29% of boys with cell phones. Use of these apps varies little by the age of the teen.
The number of text messages sent or received by cell phone owning teens ages 13 to 17 (directly through phone or on apps on the phone) on a typical day is 30.5 The number of messages exchanged for girls is higher, typically sending and receiving 40 messages a day. And for the oldest girls (15 to 17), this rises to a median of 50 messages exchanged daily.
Among teens with cell phones, those from less well-off families are more likely than others to report that they simply don’t send text messages. Some 18% of teens from families earning less than $30,000 annually report that they do not text, compared with less than 7% for those in higher-earning families.
Online pinboards are sites like Pinterest or Polyvore where users can “pin” online content to create highly visual displays of images and information for inspiration, purchase or construction. One-in-five teens — 22% — use online pinboards. Girls, especially older ones, are the major users of these sites, with 33% of girls and 11% of boys using the boards. A quarter of older teens pin on pinboards as do 16% of younger teens. The oldest girls ages 15 to 17 are the most likely to pin, with 38% using online boards.
One-in-six teens (17%) read or comment on discussion boards like reddit or Digg. There are few differences among teens in use of these online boards by age or gender or any other major demographic category.
Anonymous apps and sites
Whisper, Yik Yak and Ask.FM are three examples of anonymous sharing apps or sites where individuals can ask questions or post confessional text or images anonymously. Just 11% of teens with cell phones report using anonymous question or sharing apps. Girls are a bit more likely to visit these sites than boys, with 13% of girls with cell phones using anonymous sharing or question sites while 8% of boys with cell phones report the same. Hispanic teens are nearly twice as likely as white teens to use these platforms, with 16% of Hispanic youth using anonymous sharing or question platforms compared with 9% of whites. And just 6% of the least well-off teens (those whose parents earn less $30,000 a year) visit anonymous sites, compared with 12% of teens from more well-to-do homes.
Playing video games
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of teens play video games online or on their phone — 84% of boys and 59% of girls — play such games. African-American teens are substantially more likely to report playing video games than their white or Hispanic counterparts; 83% of African-American teens play games compared with 71% of white and 69% of black teens.6 Teens who play video games cross the socio-economic spectrum evenly, with little variation by family income or education.
Video call and chat
Some 47% of teens talk with others over video connections such as Skype, Oovoo, Facetime and Omegle. Older girls are the most enthusiastic chatters with 54% of them video calling or chatting with others compared with 44% of all other teens. And 53% of Hispanic teens video chat and call, a bit more than the 43% of white teens who report talking by video.
Teens are enthusiastic users of social media sites and apps. When asked a general question about whether they used social media, three-quarters (76%) of teens use social media, and 81% of older teens use the sites, compared with 68% of teens 13 to 14.
When asked about seven specific sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Google+ and Vine), and given the option to report another site used, 89% of all teens reported that they used at least one of the sites and two-thirds of teens (71%) reported using two or more sites. Among the 18% of teens who only use one site, 66% use Facebook, 13% use Google+ and 13% use Instagram. Just 3% of the single site users use Snapchat, and another 2% say they use a site we didn’t ask about in the list, including Wattpad (a reading site), Youtube, Oovoo and ifunny, among others. Less than 2% (each) report using Twitter, Vine or Tumblr as their sole social media platform. Below is an analysis of teens’ use of social media, organized by major platform.
Facebook is the most popular of all the social media platforms included in the survey, with 71% of all teens saying they use Facebook. Boys and girls are equally likely to report using the platform, but older users ages 15 to 17 are more likely to use it than younger users 13 to 14. Much of the difference is located within the youngest age group — the 13-year-olds — of whom less than half (44%) say they use Facebook, while of 77% of 14- to 17-year-olds report use.
Teens from somewhat less well-off households are more likely to report using Facebook than teens from wealthier homes; 77% of teens from families earning less than $50,000 annually use Facebook, while 68% of teens from households earning more say they use the platform.
Use of Facebook is relatively consistent across racial and ethnic groups. Urban teens report more use of Facebook than teens from the suburbs, with 77% of urban teens on the site, compared with two-thirds (67%) of suburban teens.
Adult use of Facebook has plateaued in recent years, with 71% of online adults using the site. However, Facebook’s user base remains quite active, with 70% of Facebook users engaging with the site daily. For more details on adult use of Facebook, please read Social Media Update 2014.
Facebook users typically have 145 friends
Among Facebook-using teens, the typical teen has 145 Facebook friends.7 Breaking it down, the largest group of teens — 30% — say they have Facebook networks of 0 to 100 friends. Another 12% report networks of 101-200 friends and 9% say 201 to 300 friends. And 15% say they have more than 300 friends. Tellingly, one-third of teens say they are not sure how many Facebook friends they have. Analyzing typical (median) friend counts for different subgroups of Facebook-using teens, we see some substantial variations. Boys report 100 friends to girls’ 175. Young teens 13 to 14 typically report smaller networks (91 friends) compared with older teens 15 to 17 who typically have 168 friends. Networks vary in typical size from 84 amongst the youngest boys to 200 friends among girls 15 to 17.
First launched in 2010, Instagram has become a mainstay for adolescent social media users. More than half (52%) of all teens report using Instagram to share photos and video with friends, with girls substantially more likely to use it than boys (61% to 44%). Much of the difference between boys and girls is accounted for by the youngest boys (ages 13 to 14) of whom only 33% use Instagram, compared with half of older boys (ages 15 to 17) and more than half of the younger girls. The heaviest users of Instagram are the oldest girls of whom 64% share photos on Instagram.
The typical teen’s Instagram network has 150 followers.
The typical American teen who uses Instagram has 150 followers in their network. Girls outpace boys in their typical number of followers, with girls reporting a median of 200 followers on Instagram compared with 100 followers for boys. There is little variation in the number of followers between younger and older cohorts of teens. And fully 39% of Instagramming teens are not sure how many followers they have.
Use of Instagram is not just confined to teens; 21% of American adults use the photo and video sharing platform. As with Twitter, young adults ages 18 to 29 are the most likely to use Instagram. The service is also popular with adult women, Hispanics, African-Americans, and urban and suburban dwellers. For more data on adult use of Instagram, please visit our Social Media Update 2014.
Snapchat is another relatively new photo and video focused sharing app that teens have embraced in the last two and half years. Two-in-five American teens (41%) use Snapchat to share images and videos that are then automatically deleted within a predetermined amount of time — usually a few seconds. (At least that is the way the firm describes how the service works. In practice, there are many workarounds that allow viewers to capture images.) By a wide margin, girls and older teens are the most likely to send snaps — with half of girls using the service, compared with 31% of boys. Similarly, 47% of older teens 15 to 17 send snaps, while 31% of younger teens do so. Older girls are the most likely of any teen group to use to service, with 56% using Snapchat. Teens from the lowest income households earning less than $30,000 per year are the least likely to use the service, with 30% of them sending snaps, while 43% of wealthier teens send them.
A third (33%) of all teens use Twitter. Older teens are more likely to use the service than younger, with use rising steadily as teens age, from just 13% of 13-year-olds using the service to 28% of 14-year-olds and 43% of 17-year-olds. The oldest girls ages 15 to 17 are the most likely to use Twitter with nearly half of them (49%) using it. This study does not show statistically significant differences by race, locale or a teen’s socio-economic status.
Typical Twitter users have 95 followers.
Among teens who use Twitter, the typical Twitter user has 95 followers — though 44% of teen Twitterers are not sure how many followers they have. Digging deeper into subgroups of teens, girls outpace boys in numbers of followers, with the typical girl reporting 116 followers to 61 for the typical boy. The differences are even more extreme between younger teens and older; 13- and 14- year-olds report a median of 30 followers compared with 103 followers for older teens.
Among all adults 18 and older, 19% use Twitter. Young adults 18 to 29 are the most likely to use the platform with 37% using the service. Since 2013, Twitter has seen growth among whites, men, those earning $50,000 or more, college graduates and urban dwellers. For more data on use of Twitter by adults, please see our Social Media Update 2014.
Google+ is a social network that comes as a part of a suite of Google-offered tools through an account on the service. A third of teens (33%) say they use Google+. Hispanic teens are more likely to use Google+ than white or African-American youth; 48% of Hispanic youth use Google+, compared to a little more than one-quarter (26%) of white teens and 29% of African-American teenagers.
And teens from families with somewhat lower levels of education (parents with a high school diploma or some college experience) are more likely to use the service (35%) than teens from families with parents with a college degree, where a bit more than one quarter (27%) of teens report a Google+ account. Given that schools are increasingly adopting Gmail and other Google tools to use with students in and out of school, many youth have access to Google+ through tools for school work.
Roughly one quarter of teens (24%) use Vine, an app that allows users to record and share short, six-second videos. Vine is used by more girls than boys, with 27% of young women using the app compared with 20% of young men. As with many social photo and video platforms, the oldest girls ages 15 to 17 are the most likely to use Vine, with 29% of them reporting use. Use of Vine is evenly spread across income groups, education, and racial and ethnic groups.
Tumblr is a microblogging service where users can curate and share posts of mostly visual content they create themselves or find elsewhere on the web. About one-in-seven (14%) teens use Tumblr. Tumblr is predominately used by girls in this age group with 23% of girls 13 to 17 using the service, compared with just 5% of boys the same age. Much of this is driven by the oldest girls (ages 15 to 17) of whom 27% report using Tumblr. Overall, older teens are modestly more likely to use Tumblr than younger teens, with 10% of 13- to 14-year-olds and 16% of 15- to 17-year-olds using it.
Facebook is used most often by the bulk of teens, but access varies, based on family income
When asked to rank social media sites by their frequency of use, Facebook is the platform that teens report that they use most often, with 41% of youth saying they use it most. Instagram is the next most often used social media platform, with 20% of teens saying they use it most often. Fully 11% of teens say Snapchat is the social site they use most, and another 6% say Twitter.
The data shows a split in social media use by socio-economic status. Less well-off teens from families earning less than $30,000 annually remain more connected to Facebook, with 51% saying they use it most, compared with 38% of teens from wealthier families. More well-to-do teens instead are significantly more likely than the least well-off teens to say they visit Snapchat most, with 14% of those from families earning more than $75,000 saying Snapchat is their top social media platform, compared with 7% of teens whose families earn less than $30,000 annually. There is a similar pattern by income around Twitter, with the wealthiest teens shifting to Twitter more than their least well-to-do peers.
The youngest teens — the 13-year-olds — divide their loyalties between Facebook and Instagram, with a bit more than a quarter of teens this age reporting they use each of these platforms most often. Teens 14 and older are more likely to have Facebook as their most often visited site. Indeed the youngest girls (ages 13 and 14) are the most likely to report using Instagram most often of any age/gender group, with 31% reporting Instagram as their most often visited platform.
Boys are more likely than girls to give Facebook as their most visited site, with 45% of boys reporting that, compared with 36% of teen girls. Girls are more likely than boys to report Instagram as their most often visited site, with 23% of girls and 17% of boys saying it is their most visited platform. Older teens are more likely than younger teens to list Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter as their most often visited platforms, though for Snapchat this is driven by great use among 15- to 17-year-old girls. Urban teens are most likely to say they visit Facebook most often, while suburban teens report visiting Instagram more than their urban peers.
Many teens who use multiple online social network sites report “some” overlap in their online personal social networks
When asked to think about how much overlap they have with various friends on the different social networks they use, the largest group of teens who use multiple social media platforms report that there is “some” overlap in their friends on the different sites. More than half (57%) of teens describe their networks as having some overlap across sites. Another three-in-ten teens (29%) have tight networks — reporting that their networks are composed of the same people on every social site they visit. And 9% say there is “not a lot” of overlap in their friends across social media sites. Another 4% of teens are compartmentalizers, who report no overlap of friends across the social sites they visit.
Teens who use more than one social media platform and come from households earning less than $75,000 per year are more likely to say they have the same friends across all of their networks, with 35% of teens in these income brackets reporting the same friends, compared with 23% of teens from the wealthiest homes. Teens from higher income households (earning $50,000 and above) are substantially more likely to report that they have some overlap among friends across their different social networks, with 61% reporting some overlap, compared with 48% of those earning less. Teens from households that earn less than $50,ooo a year are more likely than wealthier teens to report that they have completely compartmentalized their social network platforms, with no overlap of friends across the different sites they use. Fully 7% of households earning less than $50,000 say they have no overlap in friends, compared with 2% of teens from families that earn more.
- In our previous reports our data collection methods allowed us to report a figure for percent of American teens who use the Internet. This report marks a switch to a new data collection method. Our new survey methodology is conducted online. Even as the population surveyed contains members who do not initially have a computer and/or internet access (these households are given a computer and internet connectivity to allow them to take the surveys), it is representative of the American population. However, this administration method does not allow us to estimate the percentage of youth who go online. ↩
- Unless otherwise specified, in this report, all typical or average data for teens is the median. ↩
- The data presented for race and ethnicity and video game play is statistically significant under some calculations and not under others. It is significant in the mode of assessment that we use for the other data in this report (and the accompanying charts) so we present it as significant here, but include this caveat. ↩
- Unless otherwise specified, in this report, all typical or average data for teens is the median. ↩