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Facebook’s grip on US teens loosening as many quit the platform

Facebook emojis on a smartphone screen

Facebook is no longer the most used social media platform among U.S. teens, according to findings from a recent Pew Research Center survey. The results were published yesterday (via Slate) and reveal that Facebook is now in fourth place compared to first place in its last teen survey in 2015.

Of the 13-17-year-olds surveyed for the “Teens, Social Media and Technology 2018” report, 85 percent said they use YouTube, 72 percent said they used Instagram, and 69 percent said they use Snapchat (the values reached more than 100 percent combined because multiple answers were allowed). Roughly half of the teens surveyed, 51 percent, said they are Facebook users.

In the 2015 report, Facebook was in the number one spot with 71 percent of teens saying they used it. Instagram was in second with 52 percent, and Snapchat was third with 41 percent.

The last report didn’t include YouTube, however, and while it’s not a social site in the more traditional sense, it received a messaging component on mobile in 2016 which started rolling out to the web version last month.

Two graphs showing social media platform usage from a teen survey. Pew Research Center

Dedicated messengers like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (both of which are owned by Facebook) were not included in either survey.

Facebook was also placed fourth in the most recent survey in terms of frequency of usage: Snapchat was top with 35 percent, YouTube had 32 percent, Instagram was third with 15 percent, while only 10 percent of respondents said Facebook was the social platform they most often used.

What’s behind the shift?

Facebook has encountered several significant troubles in recent years. The Cambridge Analytica scandal which came to light earlier in 2018 saw Facebook used to harvest personal data from estimated tens of millions of users. In 2016, Facebook also failed to combat fake news which many attributed to Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential Election (the last Pew teen survey was also conducted before this event).

WhatsApp’s co-founder, who sold the company to Facebook, recently urged others to quit the social platform too. All of these factors may have lead to young people leaving Facebook lately.

Augmented Reality for Facebook Messenger Facebook Newsroom

There’s a growing sense that Facebook has had its day but there’s still a great gap between talking about quitting Facebook and actually quitting Facebook. There are those who can only reach certain contacts through the platform, or who rely on it for their business. Despite what the survey suggests, and Facebook’s recent controversies, I’m not quite sure I believe that it has lost 20 percent of its U.S. teen users in three years.

Pew Research

The Pew Research Center is a U.S.-based institute that investigates current trends and issues facing the world. Its “Teens, Social Media and Technology 2018” survey is based on interviews with 1,058 parents with teens aged 13-to-17, and 743 teens. It uses the NORC AmeriSpeak panel, designed to represent the U.S. household population. More details on the methodology can be found here.

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