Story at a glance
- Following a string of controversies ranging from Russian election interference to profiting off ads on searches for hate group pages, Facebook is now seeing a sharp drop in teen users as other social media apps enter the market.
- The findings are detailed in a Pew Research Center survey of teens aged 13 through 17.
- Among this age group, YouTube is the most popular platform of choice, followed by TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Aug. 12 to reflect the weighted sample size.
Facebook, and parent company Meta, is no stranger to controversies. Recent headlines include such scandals as the site profiting from ads on searches for hate group pages and handing over data implicating a Nebraska teen and her mother for illegally self-managing an abortion.
Amid all the negative press, a subsequent decline in revenue, and the company’s own chatbot claiming it ‘exploits people,’ new data from the Pew Research Center now shows Facebook’s reach among teens has fallen dramatically in the past few years, especially compared to new social media star, TikTok.
“The analysis in this report is based on a self-administered web survey conducted from April 14 to May 4, 2022, among a sample of 1,316 dyads, with each dyad (or pair) comprised of one U.S. teen ages 13 to 17 and one parent per teen,” authors wrote.
Of those surveyed, 67 percent of teens said they use TikTok, with 16 percent reporting they use the app “constantly.” Meanwhile, just 32 percent said they use Facebook, a sharp decrease from the 71 percent who reported using the platform in a similar survey carried out from 2014 to 2015. Additional data show the platform remains popular with adults.
More teens also report using Instagram and Snapchat since the previous survey, while two platforms assessed at the time — Vine and Google + — are no longer in existence.
In the current report, YouTube was ranked as the most popular platform of choice, with 97 percent of respondents saying they use it. Instagram and Snapchat followed TikTok with about 60 percent of teens saying they use each of the services.
But Facebook usage was still higher compared with Twitter, Whatsapp, Reddit and Tumblr, respectively, data showed.
Results also demonstrate differences based on economic status with regard to Facebook use: “44% of teens living in households earning less than $30,000 a year and 39% of teens from households earning $30,000 to less than $75,000 a year say they ever use Facebook, while 27% of those from households earning $75,000 or more a year say the same,” authors wrote.
Among those who do use Facebook, they reported using the platform less often than other apps, although nearly 60 percent of users said they still check the app daily.
Social media platforms in general have received their fair share of scrutiny in recent years from allegations they perpetuate eating disorders and other mental health issues among teens, to data showing the spaces are breeding grounds for online discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals.
The Pew report noted demographic differences among teens’ social media diets. “For example, teen boys are more likely than teen girls to say they use YouTube, Twitch and Reddit, whereas teen girls are more likely than teen boys to use TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat,” authors wrote.
Black and Hispanic teens are also more likely to use TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp than their white counterparts.
Data underscore the level to which teens engage with platforms as 35 percent reported using at least one of them “constantly.” Rates of use were highest among TikTok, SnapChat and YouTube users, while nearly 40 percent of teens felt they spent too much time on any of the social media apps.
Teen girls were also more likely to say it would be difficult to give up social media compared with boys. Around 25 percent of boys said it would be very easy to kick the habit.
The data reflect growing rates of internet use among this age group overall. Currently, 97 percent of teens report using the internet on a daily basis compared with 92 percent in 2014-15. “The share of teens who say they are online almost constantly has roughly doubled since 2014-15 (46% now and 24% then),” authors added.
Studies remain largely inconsistent when it comes to proving social media leads to detrimental effects on teens’ mental health, while others suggest individuals’ age may play a more important factor in the association.