Youth

US teens ‘almost constantly’ using YouTube, TikTok

It will likely come as little surprise to many parents that a large percentage of American teens say their use of certain social media sites is “almost constant,” according to a new Pew Research Center report on youth social media and internet use.

But it may be surprising where they’re spending that time.

YouTube for the second year in a row beat out TikTok as the most widely used platform among the nearly 1,500 teens surveyed for the report. In the survey, 93% of the teens said they used YouTube, compared to 63% who said they used TikTok, followed by smaller shares for Snapchat (60%), Instagram (59%) and Facebook (33%), respectively.

One third of the teen respondents said they used at least one of those apps “almost constantly,” Pew reported. And the share of teens reporting that they use the internet almost constantly has nearly doubled to 46% in the eight years since Pew first released the survey in 2015.

To conduct the report, Pew Research surveyed 1,453 US teens ages 13 to 17, recruited through their parents, between September 26 and October 23, 2023.

Pew’s report indicates that despite growing concerns about the impact of social media on teen mental health and safety, young people continue to heavily engage with these platforms.

The report comes on the heels of numerous lawsuits filed against social media companies accusing them of harming young people, including one filed just this week by New Mexico’s attorney general alleging that Facebook- and Instagram-parent Meta creates a “breeding ground” for child predators. Meta denied the claims in the lawsuit and said it has policies and practices in place to protect young users.

The group found that while use of Snapchat and Instagram has grown since its 2015 report, use of Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) has declined; just 33% of teens said they used Facebook this year, compared to 71% in 2015. Twitter use fell from 33% in 2015 to just 20% this year.

Older teens, ages 15 to 17, are more likely to use most of the major platforms than those ages 13 to 14, except YouTube. Among 13- to 14-year-olds, 94% reported using YouTube, compared to 92% of teens ages 15 to 17.

Teen girls are more likely than boys to use Instagram (66% vs. 53%), TikTok (68% vs. 59%) and Snapchat (66% vs. 53%), while boys are more likely to use YouTube (96% vs. 91%), X (21% vs. 19%) and Reddit (18% vs. 10%).

Online safety experts have previously raised concerns about the impact of Instagram — and the way it promotes so-called social comparison between users and celebrities, as well as their peers — on young girls. Meta has since released various feature updates meant to make it harder for users, particularly teens, to fall down content rabbit holes that could harm their mental health, including “take a break” reminders.

TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat have all also released features designed to protect young users in recent years in response to growing scrutiny over their safety for teens, such as default screen time limits, parental oversight options and updated content recommendation systems.

The report also offers a stark reminder of a disparity that can make it harder for teens not only to access social media, but to access schoolwork and complete homework: 10% of the teen respondents said they did not have access to a desktop or laptop computer at home.

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