The good old Pew Internet Report (May 2013) into American teen’s usage of the Internet gives us some insights about American teens’ usage of social media. I’m going to follow this up with a post about how Irish teens use social media, but first this:

  • 95% of teens (12-17 years) use the internet. Around 80% use some form of social media.
    • 77% of online teens use Facebook.
    • More teens are using Twitter than adults.   24% of online teens use Twitter (versus 16% of adults).
    • Older teens (those ages 14-17) are significantly more likely than younger teens to use both Facebook and Twitter, with older girls in particular standing out from both older boys and from younger teens of either gender.
  • Teen usage of social media – who is spending the longest there?

Girls and older teens continue to be the heaviest users of social media sites. Among teen girls who are social media users, 48% say they visit social networking sites several times per day, compared with 36% of teen boys. Looking at younger teens ages 12-13, 26% use the sites several times per day, while nearly twice as many teens ages 14-17 (47%) use the sites that often.

  • What platforms are they using?

social media ireland teenagers

No surprises there.  All the image / video based ones are on the up (Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Pinterest), and the old ones are waning (Yahoo, MySpace, MyYearbook).  But just having an account on a platform doesn’t necessarily mean they care about it.

This is a particular problem for Facebook, which is seeing many teens walk away.

But I don’t think teens are walking away from Facebook because of the infiltration by Mum or Dad, it can be because of the amount of ‘drama’ or what the media calls cyber-bullying, and because some people share too much.  When social media is no longer fun, teens will just walk away:

Female (age 19): “Yeah, that’s why we go on Twitter and Instagram [instead of Facebook]. My mom doesn’t have that.” 

Female (age 14): “OK, here’s something I want to say. I think Facebook can be fun, but also it’s drama central. On Facebook, people imply things and say things, even just by a like, that they wouldn’t say in real life.”

But the main reason why teens are walking away from Facebook is because they don’t need it!

I love this comment, from this great blog about teen usage of social media: If someone does something stupid, you don’t need Facebook, you’ll find out within 5 minutes. 

What is Facebook to most people over the age of 25? It’s a never-ending class reunion mixed with an eternal late-night dorm room gossip session mixed with a nightly check-in on what coworkers are doing after leaving the office. In other words, it’s a place where you go to keep tabs on your friends and acquaintances.

You know what kids call that? School.

Many teens are using multiple accounts for different purposes:

Female (age 16): “And so now I am basically dividing things up. Instagram is mostly for pictures. Twitter is mostly for just saying what you are thinking. Facebook is both of them combined so you have to give a little bit of each. But yes, so Instagram, I posted more pictures on Instagram than on Facebook. Twitter is more natural.” 

Female (age 14): “If you make a Twitter and an Instagram, then you’ll just kind of forget about Facebook, is what I did.”

This has led to a rise in the usage of …


Snapchat, an image-messaging app where sent pictures and videos are displayed for only several seconds and then are deleted by the platform (receivers can take a screenshot, but the sender is usually alerted to this).  One of Snapchat’s attractions is simply that pictures and videos are sent through it much faster than through email or texts. Another is that the platform is so new many schools have not yet blocked access to the site. But the primary attraction of Snapchat is its central feature, the limited time a recipient sees a picture or video. Focus group participants reported using this feature to send silly or embarrassing pictures. has published guidelines about snapchat, intended to make young people think about how Snapchat might be used (for sexting) and to help young people to be aware of it. I think it’s great that an organisation like Spunout exists, and how responsive it is to providing the kind of facts that people need.

Female (age 17): “ And it’s just kind of fun. Because it’s like texting, but you get to use your face as the emoticon instead of an actual emoticon.” 


A blogging platform that relies on imagery and video posts. Tumblr culture is based on memes that relate to various topics, such as fashion, pop culture and photography. Tumblr users are much more engaged with the site — reading and posting content about things they care about for hours — much more so than on Facebook.


Retro cool animated gif style vibe, completely sharable and allows for self expression.  I totally get how Maddie Kirch feels:


According to Cliff Watson in his brilliant post, Kik is the new best thing:

Kik is a non-cellular text service. You don’t text people by phone number, you text by their Kik handle. Think of it as Direct Messaging on Twitter, but without using Twitter or having its character limit. That’s it. That’s all it is. But it handles millions of texts every day.

Interesting Use Of Twitter

In previous Pew studies, Twitter was used by teens mainly to follow celebrities, but this year sees a shift, with many of them posting their own content and engaging with friends.  Many see the 140 character limit as good as it prevents the type of excesses seen on Facebook.

Now we know that teens love texting, but can often be limited by lack of credit!  So it’s very interesting to see that Twitter is being used like a big group SMS.  It’s like texting.  But it’s to everybody.  And it’s free! This explains the resurgence in Twitter – and Snapchat fits nicely into it, the visual accompaniment to the text.

The Pew Research found that:

Despite the overwhelming use of social media among teens, we found among focus group participants that text messaging and offline conversations are still the preferred method of communication for very sensitive, personal, or significant information.

So, teenagers are not abandoning social – they are just using it in a way that is social!

They are using the word with the intent of its original meaning: making contact with other human beings. Communicating. Back-and-forth, fairly immediate dialogue. Most of it digitally. But most of it with the intent of a conversation where two (or more) people are exchanging information and emotion. Not posting it. Exchanging it.

That is social.

Now brands, how are you going to get your message in this?

Read more tomorrow when I publish the results of my research with *real live* Irish teens….