Survey: TikTok top platform for US teens
August 15, 2022
The landscape of social media is ever-changing, especially among teens who often are on the leading edge of this space. A new Pew Research Center survey of American teenagers ages 13 to 17 finds TikTok has rocketed in popularity since its North American debut several years ago and now is a top social media platform for teens among the platforms covered in this survey.
Some 67 per cent of teens say they ever use TikTok, with 16 per cent of all teens saying they use it almost constantly. Meanwhile, the share of teens who say they use Facebook, a dominant social media platform among teens in the Center’s 2014-15 survey, has plummeted from 71 per cent then to 32 per cent today.
YouTube tops the 2022 teen online landscape among the platforms covered in the Center’s new survey, as it is used by 95 per cent of teens. TikTok is next on the list of platforms that were asked about in this survey (67 per cent), followed by Instagram and Snapchat, which are both used by about six-in-ten teens. After those platforms come Facebook with 32 per cent and smaller shares who use Twitter, Twitch, WhatsApp, Reddit and Tumblr.
Changes in the social media landscape since 2014-15 extend beyond TikTok’s rise and Facebook’s fall. Growing shares of teens say they are using Instagram and Snapchat since then. Conversely, Twitter and Tumblr saw declining shares of teens who report using their platforms. And two of the platforms the Center tracked in the earlier survey – Vine and Google+ – no longer exist.
There are some notable demographic differences in teens’ social media choices. 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. In addition, higher shares of Black and Hispanic teens report using TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp compared with White teens.
This study also explores the frequency with which teens are on each of the top five online platforms: YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. Fully 35 per cent of teens say they are using at least one of them “almost constantly.” Teen TikTok and Snapchat users are particularly engaged with these platforms, followed by teen YouTube users in close pursuit. A quarter of teens who use Snapchat or TikTok say they use these apps almost constantly, and a fifth of teen YouTube users say the same. When looking at teens overall, 19 per cent say they use YouTube almost constantly, 16 per cent say this about TikTok, and 15 per cent about Snapchat.
When reflecting on the amount of time they spend on social media generally, a majority of US teens (55 per cent) say they spend about the right amount of time on these apps and sites, while about a third of teens (36 per cent) say they spend too much time on social media. Just 8 per cent of teens think they spend too little time on these platforms.
Asked about the idea of giving up social media, 54 per cent of teens say it would be at least somewhat hard to give it up, while 46 per cent say it would be at least somewhat easy. Teen girls are more likely than teen boys to express it would be difficult to give up social media (58 per cent vs. 49 per cent). Conversely, a quarter of teen boys say giving up social media would be very easy, while 15 per cent of teen girls say the same. Older teens also say they would have difficulty giving up social media. About six-in-ten teens ages 15 to 17 (58 per cent) say giving up social media would be at least somewhat difficult to do. A smaller share of 13- to 14-year-olds (48 per cent) think this would be difficult.
Beyond just online platforms, the new survey finds that the vast majority of teens have access to digital devices, such as smartphones (95 per cent), desktop or laptop computers (90 per cent) and gaming consoles (80 per cent). And the study shows there has been an uptick in daily teen Internet users, from 92 per cent in 2014-15 to 97 per cent today. In addition, the share of teens who say they are online almost constantly has roughly doubled since 2014-15 (46 per cent now and 24 per cent then).
These are some of the findings from an online survey of 1,316 teens conducted by the Pew Research Center from April 14th to May 4th, 2022.
Since 2014-15, there has been a 22-percentage point rise in the share of teens who report having access to a smartphone (95 per cent now and 73 per cent then). While teens’ access to smartphones has increased over roughly the past eight years, their access to other digital technologies, such as desktop or laptop computers or gaming consoles, has remained statistically unchanged.
The survey shows there are differences in access to these digital devices for certain groups. For instance, teens ages 15 to 17 (98 per cent) are more likely to have access to a smartphone than their 13- to 14-year-old counterparts (91 per cent). In addition, teen boys are 21 points more likely to say they have access to gaming consoles than teen girls – a pattern that has been reported in prior Center research.
Access to computers and gaming consoles also differs by teens’ household income. US teens living in households that make $75,000 or more annually are 12 points more likely to have access to gaming consoles and 15 points more likely to have access to a desktop or laptop computer than teens from households with incomes under $30,000. These gaps in teen computer and gaming console access are consistent with digital divides by household income the Center has observed in previous teen surveys.
While 72 per cent of US teens say they have access to a smartphone, a computer and a gaming console at home, more affluent teens are particularly likely to have access to all three devices. Fully 76 per cent of teens that live in households that make at least $75,000 a year say they have or have access to a smartphone, a gaming console and a desktop or laptop computer, compared with smaller shares of teens from households that make less than $30,000 or teens from households making $30,000 to $74,999 a year who say they have access to all three (60 per cent and 69 per cent of teens, respectively).
The share of teens who say they use the Internet about once a day or more has grown slightly since 2014-15. Today, 97 per cent of teens say they use the Internet daily, compared with 92 per cent of teens in 2014-15 who said the same.
In addition, the share of teens who say they use the Internet almost constantly has gone up: 46 per cent of teens say they use the Internet almost constantly, up from only about a quarter (24 per cent) of teenagers who said the same in 2014-15.
Black and Hispanic teens stand out for being on the Internet more frequently than White teens. Some 56 per cent of Black teens and 55 per cent of Hispanic teens say they are online almost constantly, compared with 37 per cent of White teens. The difference between Hispanic and White teens on this measure is consistent with previous findings when it comes to frequent Internet use.
In addition, older teens are more likely to be online almost constantly. Some 52 per cent of 15- to 17-year-olds say they use the Internet almost constantly, while 36 per cent of 13- to 14-year-olds say the same. Another demographic pattern in “almost constant” Internet use: 53 per cent of urban teens report being online almost constantly, while somewhat smaller shares of suburban and rural teens say the same (44 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively).
Slight differences are seen among those who say they engage in “almost constant” Internet use based on household income. A slightly larger share of teens from households making $30,000 to $74,999 annually report using the Internet almost constantly, compared with teens from homes making at least $75,000 (51 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively). Teens who live in households making under $30,000 do not significantly differ from either group.
This survey asked whether US teens use 10 specific online platforms: YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, WhatsApp, Reddit and Tumblr.
YouTube stands out as the most common online platform teens use out of the platforms measured, with 95 per cent saying they ever use this site or app. Majorities also say they use TikTok (67 per cent), Instagram (62 per cent) and Snapchat (59 per cent). Instagram and Snapchat use has grown since asked about in 2014-15, when roughly half of teens said they used Instagram (52 per cent) and about four-in-ten said they used Snapchat (41 per cent).
The share of teens using Facebook has declined sharply in the past decade. Today, 32 per cent of teens report ever using Facebook, down 39 points since 2014-15, when 71 per cent said they ever used the platform. Although today’s teens do not use Facebook as extensively as teens in previous years, the platform still enjoys widespread usage among adults, as seen in other recent Center studies.
Other social media platforms have also seen decreases in usage among teens since 2014-15. Some 23 per cent of teens now say they ever use Twitter, compared with 33 per cent in 2014-15. Tumblr has seen a similar decline. While 14 per cent of teens in 2014-15 reported using Tumblr, just 5 per cent of teens today say they use this platform.
The online platforms teens flock to differ slightly based on gender. Teen girls are more likely than teen boys to say they ever use TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, while boys are more likely to use Twitch and Reddit. Boys also report using YouTube at higher rates than girls, although the vast majority of teens use this platform regardless of gender.
Teen girls are more likely than boys to use TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat; teen boys more likely to use Twitch, Reddit and YouTube; and Black teens are especially drawn to TikTok compared with other groups
Teens’ use of certain online platforms also differs by race and ethnicity. Black and Hispanic teens are more likely than White teens to say they ever use TikTok, Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp. Black teens also stand out for being more likely to use TikTok compared with Hispanic teens, while Hispanic teens are more likely than their peers to use WhatsApp.
Older teens are more likely than younger teens to say they use each of the online platforms asked about except for YouTube and WhatsApp. Instagram is an especially notable example, with a majority of teens ages 15 to 17 (73 per cent) saying they ever use Instagram, compared with 45 per cent of teens ages 13 to 14 who say the same (a 28-point gap).
Despite Facebook losing its dominance in the social media world with this new cohort of teens, higher shares of those living in lower- and middle-income households gravitate toward Facebook than their peers who live in more affluent households: 44 per cent of teens living in households earning less than $30,000 a year and 39 per cent of teens from households earning $30,000 to less than $75,000 a year say they ever use Facebook, while 27 per cent of those from households earning $75,000 or more a year say the same. Differences in Facebook use by household income were found in previous Center surveys as well (however the differences by household income were more pronounced in the past).
When it comes to the frequency that teens use the top five platforms the survey looked at, YouTube and TikTok stand out as the platforms teens use most frequently. About three-quarters of teens visit YouTube at least daily, including 19 per cent who report using the site or app almost constantly. A majority of teens (58 per cent) visit TikTok daily, while about half say the same for Snapchat (51 per cent) and Instagram (50 per cent).
Looking within teens who use a given platform, TikTok and Snapchat stand out for having larger shares of teenage users who visit these platforms regularly. Fully 86 per cent of teen TikTok or Snapchat users say they are on that platform daily and a quarter of teen users for both of these platforms say they are on the site or app almost constantly. Somewhat smaller shares of teen YouTube users (20 per cent) and teen Instagram users (16 per cent) say they are on those respective platforms almost constantly (about eight-in-ten teen users are on these platforms daily).
Not only is there a smaller share of teenage Facebook users than there was in 2014-15, teens who do use Facebook are also relatively less frequent users of the platform compared with the other platforms covered in this survey. Just 7 per cent of teen Facebook users say they are on the site or app almost constantly (representing 2 per cent of all teens). Still, about six-in-ten teen Facebook users (57 per cent) visit the platform daily.
Across these five platforms, 35 per cent of all US teens say they are on at least one of them almost constantly. While this is not a comprehensive rundown of all teens who use any kind of online platform almost constantly, this 35 per cent of teens represent a group of relatively heavy platform users and they clearly have different views about their use of social media compared with those who say they use at least one of these platforms, though less often than “almost constantly.” Those findings are covered in a later section.
Black, Hispanic teens more likely than White teens to say they are almost constantly on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram
Larger shares of Black and Hispanic teens say they are on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram almost constantly than White teens. For example, Black and Hispanic teens are roughly five times more likely than White teens to say they are on Instagram almost constantly.
Hispanic teens are more likely to be frequent users of Snapchat than White or Black teens: 23 per cent of Hispanic teens say they use this social media platform almost constantly, while 12 per cent of White teens and 11 per cent of Black teens say the same. There are no racial and ethnic differences in teens’ frequency of Facebook usage.
Overall, Hispanic (47 per cent) and Black teens (45 per cent) are more likely than White teens (26 per cent) to say they use at least one of these five online platforms almost constantly.
As social media use has become a common part of many teens’ daily routine, the Center asked US teens how they feel about the amount of time they are spending on social media. A slight majority (55 per cent) say the amount of time they spend of social media is about right, and smaller shares say they spend too much time or too little time on these platforms.
While a majority of teen boys and half of teen girls say they spend about the right amount of time on social media, this sentiment is more common among boys. Teen girls are more likely than their male counterparts to say they spend too much time on social media. In addition, White teens are more likely to see their time using social media as about right compared with Hispanic teens. Black teens do not differ from either group.
This analysis also explored how teens who frequently use these platforms may feel about their time on them and how those feelings may differ from teens who use these sites and apps less frequently. To do this, two groups were constructed. The first group is the 35 per cent of teens who say they use at least one of the five platforms this survey covered – YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook – almost constantly. The other group consists of teens who say they use these platforms but not as frequently – that is, they use at least one of these five platforms but use them less often than “almost constantly.”
When asked how they feel about the time they spend on social media, 53 per cent of teens who almost constantly use at least one of the platforms say they are on social media too much, while about three-in-ten teens (28 per cent) who use at least one of these platforms but less often say the same.
Teens who are almost constantly online – not just on social media – also stand out for saying they spend too much time on social media: 51 per cent say they are on social media too much. By comparison, 26 per cent of teens who are online several times a day say they are on social media too much.
When reflecting on what it would be like to try to quit social media, teens are somewhat divided whether this would be easy or difficult. Some 54 per cent of US teens say it would be very (18 per cent) or somewhat hard (35 per cent) for them to give up social media. Conversely, 46 per cent of teens say it would be at least somewhat easy for them to give up social media, with a fifth saying it would be very easy.
Teenage girls are slightly more likely to say it would be hard to give up social media than teen boys (58 per cent vs. 49 per cent). A similar gap is seen between older and younger teens, with teens 15 to 17 years old being more likely than 13- and 14-year-olds to say it would be at least somewhat hard to give up social media.
A majority of teens who use at least one of the platforms asked about in the survey “almost constantly” say it would be hard to give up social media, with 32 per cent saying it would be very hard. Smaller shares of teens who use at least one of these online platforms but use them less often say the same.
The teens who think they spend too much time on social media also report they would struggle to step back completely from it. Teens who say they spend too much time on social media are 36 percentage points more likely than teens who see their usage as about right to say giving up social media would be hard (78 per cent vs. 42 per cent). In fact, about three-in-ten teens who say they use social media too much (29 per cent) say it would be very hard for them to give up social media. Conversely, a majority of teens who see their social media usage as about right (58 per cent) say that it would be at least somewhat easy for them to give it up.