Facebook waning, social media may have plateaued among teens, Pew study says(Read article summary)
A huge update on our knowledge of teens and social media was released by Pew Research Center today. It's findings include some surprising info: Facebook use among teens is waning, teens do, in fact, value their privacy online, and a majority have friended their parents.
Screenshot Pew Research Center
Contrary to how theyâre typically represented in the news media, âfew teens embrace a fully public approach to social media,â Pew Internet reports in a major new study, âTeens, Social Media and Privacy.â Yes, they share more about themselves than we did as teens, but âthey take an array of steps to restrict and prune their profiles.â
Pew turned up a lot of intelligence on teensâ part, where safety, privacy and reputation management are concerned, bearing outÂ findings in CanadaÂ last fall. Here are some key findings of this important research, Pewâs first in-depth look at teensâ online privacy since 2007:
- âThe frequency of teen social media usage may have reached a plateauâ â the number of teens social media users who check their pages ââseveral times a dayâ hasnât changed in any significant way since 2011,â Pew says.
- Teensâ Twitter use is up significantly, from 16% of US 12-to-17-year-olds in 2011 to nearly a quarter (24%) now, and African American teens use Twitter significantly more than white teens â 39% vs. 23%, respectively.
- âThe typical (median) teen Facebook user has 300 friends, while the typical teen Twitter user has 79 followersâ (and Pew found that teens âdonât always think of Twitter as a social networking site,â though the authors didnât say what they do think Twitter is).
- Online mirrors offline: âTeensâ Facebook friendship networks largely mirror their offline networksâ (which should further reduce the speculative âstranger dangerâ fears of the previous decade and its national task forces [seeÂ this]). âUnwanted contact from strangers is relatively uncommon, but 17% of online teens report some kind of contact that made them feel scared or uncomfortable,â Pew said, adding in a footnote, thought that its question did not reference sexual solicitations, so respondents couldâve been referring to a wide array of concerning behaviors or interactions.
- A whopping 70% of teen Facebook users say theyâre friends with their parents on FB, and 91% of teen Facebook users are friends with members of their extended family.
- Their use of Facebook is âwaning.â
- We knew this, but itâs important confirmation: â60% of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private [note that Pew's not just saying that 60% use privacy settings], and most report high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their settings.â On Twitter, thought, nearly two-thirds (64%) of teens tweet publicly, which is typical for adult Twitter users too.
- âTeens take other steps to shape their reputation, manage their networks, and mask information â¨they donât want others to know: 74% of teen social media users have deleted people from their â¨network or friends listâ; 58% âshare inside jokes or cloak their messages in some wayâ (see this about âsocial steganographyâ from researcherÂ danah boyd); 26% post false information like a fake name, age, or location to help protect their privacy (see this aboutÂ âfictionalizing profilesâÂ as a safety measure).
- Teens with larger friend networks on Facebook also use more social apps and services other than Facebook. They also share more information and media while at the same time show more care with âprofile pruningâ and reputation management.
- Teensâ concern about advertisersâ access to their information is low: âjust 9% say they are âveryâ concernedâ; 40% are somewhat *or* very concerned, while 81% of parents are somewhat or very concerned about this for their children. Pew adds that âteens who are concerned about third-party access to their personal information are also more likely to engage in online reputation management.â
So letâs zoom in on the reasons teens interviewed in focus groups gave Pew for why theyâre using Facebook less and consider some takeaways:
- âThe increase in adult presenceâ: The takeaway we might consider is that trying to monitor teensâ activities by setting up an account in every online service and app they use in a kind of whack-a-mole approach to tech parenting wonât ultimately keep parents abreast of their kidsâ digital activities for the simple reason that the more we monitor, the more likely they are to move on. Itâll get harder and harder, too, because they arenât moving on to a single new service (the way in the last decade Facebook replace MySpace as the No. 1 social network site). Today, digital socializing is expanding and diversifying because itâs now on the mobile platform at least as much as the Web. It looks like digital monitoring and âparental controlsâ are being replaced by good old-fashioned communication between parent and child about how they use digital devices and spaces (we ConnectSafely folk offer discussion points in two of those spaces with ourÂ new parentsâ guides to Snapchat and Instagram).
- âPeople sharing excessivelyâ: Note how smart Pewâs respondents are to find that annoying! What this indicates is that protective social norms are developing â teens are viewing it less and less socially acceptable to overshare. Adults might find it comforting to see this; itâs online safety in action at the grassroots level. And I hope parents will increasingly understand and acknowledge the protective power of social norms among young people every bit as much as among adults.
- âStressful âdramaââ: This is one reason why, in other reports, young people are saying theyâre moving to Snapchat and other perishable media services: drama avoidance (seeÂ this). If the photos and videos vanish in 10 seconds or less, thereâs no chance posturing (or âposingâ), no self-presentation, âclaiming,â or grandstanding. Drama canât build. Sharing becomes just fun, spontaneous and, well, gone in a few seconds. What a relief, huh? Drama canât build (or at least drama queens and kings have to work a lot harder), people can let down their guard a little (aÂ little), and reputation management becomes a little less of an issue.
âOne of the most striking themes that surfaced through the Berkman focus groups this spring,â the authors write (referring to their co-authors at Harvard Universityâs Berkman Center for Internet & Society), âwas the sense of a social burden teens associated with Facebook. While Facebook is still deeply integrated in teensâ everyday lives, it is sometimes seen as a utility and an obligation rather than an exciting new platform that teens can claim as their own.â Thus their growing interest in the mobile platform. Facebook and its Instagram app are mobile, too, but so are hundreds of thousands of other apps offering at least thousands of different uses. Teensâ digital social activities, from the friendship-driven to the interest-driven kinds*, are diversifying and segmenting. That makes for fascinating conversations with our children and their peers. Seriously, there is so much to learn about them now in kinder, more respectful, less intrusive ways than through impersonal monitoring software and âparental controls.â
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs atÂ NetFamilyNews.