Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
While Facebook is still insanely popular, its use by teenagers has dropped in recent years. If this trend continues, eMarketer predicts that by 2022, teenage use of Facebook will drop by another 2.2 million.
So, if teenagers are leaving Facebook for pastures new, where are they going, and why? In this article we look at the social media apps teenagers are actually using, and what makes them so popular with today’s youth.
Where Teens are Going: The Breakdown
According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2018, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are the most popular social platforms for teenagers.
Here’s the breakdown of how teenagers use social media:
- 85% are on YouTube
- 72% use Instagram
- 69% are on Snapchat
- 51% still use Facebook
- 32% like Twitter
- 9% post to Tumblr
- 7% are Reddit users
Pew notes that since 95 percent of teenagers have a smartphone or access to one, this at least partially drives what social networks they gravitate towards. Almost half of teens (45%) told Pew that they’re online “almost constantly”.
Why Teens Use Certain Social Networks
To get a better understanding of what forces are driving teens to these social platforms, we interviewed a 16-year-old teenager from Noblesville, Indiana who requested to remain anonymous. For our purposes here, we’ll call her Katie.
Some background on Katie. She goes to a large high school in a community in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis. The school has over 5,000 students from every walk of life. The high school is a fair representation of most teenagers in the United States.
This particular student is a member of band, practices Tae Kwon Do, and in her junior year has a 3.9 GPA. Her interaction with other students at this school ranges across many demographics.
Teenagers on YouTube
According to Business Insider, Teens watch more YouTube and Netflix than they do TV. Specifically, 34 percent watch YouTube, 27 percent watch Netflix, and a paltry 14 percent watch live TV. It isn’t clear how many of those YouTube viewers are subscribers to YouTube TV, which offers access to live TV shows.
Regardless, YouTube is clearly a massive draw for teens.
MUO: Why do you think so many teenagers are watching YouTube these days, compared to television?
Katie: Everyone watches YouTube! It’s like the new TV. Remember the hype when TV came out? How supposedly everyone was glued to it? YouTube is like that. There are videos for anyone, and you can contribute to the community by making your own videos. Kids today are aspiring to be like the biggest YouTubers.
There is a lot of truth to the statement that teens are dreaming of becoming popular on YouTube. They have plenty of examples who prove that doing so can be lucrative.
Matthew Morris, better known as MattyBRaps, has a subscriber base on YouTube of over 10.4 million people who enjoy his musical creations. JoJo Siwa, a singer and dancer from Los Angeles, has a fanbase on YouTube of over 6.8 million people. Then there’s Baby Ariel from Florida, a popular vlogger and singer with over 3 million fans on YouTube.
These and other teen YouTube stars are proof that becoming “internet famous” is not something to take lightly.
Teenagers on Instagram
One of the most common sights when you’re out in public is a teenager taking a selfie.
According to eMarketer, 63 percent of teens use Instagram on a daily basis. So if you do see a teen taking a selfie, the odds are good they’re probably posting it on Instagram.
MUO: What kind of teenagers do you think use Instagram as opposed to Snapchat?
Katie: Instagram is used more for being creative and stuff. On Instagram you find lots of “artsy” kids who like to express themselves more through photography and art.
Just like YouTube has teen superstars, Instagram has those as well. Some of the most popular include model Alexis Ren, Kylie Jenner (a well known celebrity called the “Queen of Instagram”), Bretman Rock, and Nash Grier.
There are many more, and just about all of them appear to have been gifted with very good genes (or impressive photo filters).
Teenagers on Snapchat
While parents may need a guide to using Snapchat, most teens sure don’t.
What worries many parents isn’t the fact that Snapchat can be used to share photos, videos, or text with friends. It’s the fact that the messages disappear from the recipient’s phone just a few seconds after they have been received.
Regardless of how parents feel about it, Snapchat remains one of teenagers’ favorite social networks.
MUO: Is there a certain type of teen that uses Snapchat, or is it popular with everyone?
Katie: It seems like Snapchat is really popular with teens who are into gossip and drama. But everyone basically uses it. It’s where a lot of stuff (drama) goes down.
MUO: A lot of parents think Snapchat is used for inappropriate stuff. Do you think that’s true?
Katie: Well, yeah it’s used for that. But that’s not all it’s used for. You send a picture and it disappears right away. But when kids use Snapchat, that’s not mainly what they’re using it for. There’s this thing where if you send the same friend messages a number of days in a row, it creates a “streak”. It’s just a fun thing to do. There’s also little emojis on the side that keep track of your level of friendship with someone.
Do Teens Still Use Twitter?
While Facebook is losing teens faster than any other social network, the same isn’t true for Twitter. While Twitter isn’t the most popular social network yet, at current rates there will likely be more teens on Twitter than there are on Facebook in just a few years.
MUO: Do you think teenagers still like Twitter?
Katie: Yeah. Most people just use it as their basic social media when they’re not using other apps like Snapchat and Instagram. It’s kinda viewed by kids like Facebook used to be viewed.
MUO: Why do you think teens aren’t using Facebook as much anymore?
Katie: It’s just gone out of style I guess. When I look at it, it just doesn’t seem as appealing. It’s just too much. I like the simplicity of the other sites. The whole fact that they (Facebook) took information about users and leaked it to companies is a real turn off for teenagers I think.
One more thing teens hate: Facebook. The use of "other" social media rose to 17% from 3% last Spring. Here's why: http://t.co/uJQBqRsROp
— Quentin Fottrell (@Quantanamo) November 1, 2013
MUO: If you were just going to post something you wanted to share publicly with more than one person, which social network would you use?
Katie: Personally, I’d put it on Instagram. But most kids would probably put it on Twitter or Snapchat. Kids are putting posts like that in their Snapchat story.
MUO: Do most teens think Facebook is now for old people?
Katie: *laugh* – I think so, yeah. I think it’s viewed as something more like our parents use.
Where Will Teenagers Go Next?
Of all of the forces of nature, teenagers are probably the most unpredictable.
The social networks they use today will probably be yesterday’s news within a few short years. But if you’re a parent of a teenager, you probably care a great deal about what your kids do online.
So, understanding those trends, and why your kids are using the social networks they do, will help you do a better job of protecting your kids online. And to all of you teenagers out there? Just keep confusing your parents by changing your favorite app every few years.