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Facebook Use Among Teens Plummets 30% In Three Years

Facebook, which has until recently dominated the social media landscape among America’s youth, is now just the fourth most popular online platform among teens between ages 13 and 17, with just 51% saying they use it, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. Facebook use among teens pales in comparison to YouTube (85%), Instagram (72%) and Snapchat (69%). Twitter is fifth with just 32% of teens reporting using the platform. 

The decline in Facebook use is stunning compared to Pew’s 2014-2015 study, in which 71% of teens reported being Facebook users, and other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat were nowhere near today’s figures, at 52% and 41% respectively.

Meanwhile 95% of teens now have a smartphone or access to one, while 45% of teens say they are online on a near-constant basis, fueling ever-growing online activities.

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. –Pew

Breaking down teen use of Facebook by household income, 70% of teens from households making under $30,000 per year report using Facebook, while just 36% of teens from households making $75,000 or more are on the platform. 

Notably, lower-income teens are more likely to gravitate toward Facebook 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 Facebook, compared with 36% whose annual family income is $75,000 or more. -Pew

How teens view the impact of social media

Pew also asked the teenagers how they thought the use of social media affected their lives – and found no clear consensus. 

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: -Pew

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)

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%).

“[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)

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.

“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)

Video Games

84% of teens say they own 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 cell phone). 

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. -Pew

Read the report here: