Has Teen Use of Facebook Peaked?

December 22, 2017

This article is included in these additional categories:

Demographics & Audiences | Digital | Social Media | Teens & Younger

It seems like a quaint memory: arguments over Facebook’s appeal to teens years ago. These days, discussions about Facebook instead surround measurement inaccuracies, fake news, and an apparent admission that using the platform comes with mental health risks. But, just for a moment, let’s revisit the teens question with an assist from Forrester Research data.

In a recent blog post, Forrester Research revealed some interesting survey results concerning teens’ use of various social platforms.

Among 6 social platforms identified, YouTube holds the broadest appeal, used by 96% of US teens (12-17), up from 87% in 2014.

Here comes the positive for Facebook: it’s well and truly in the mix. In fact, somewhat surprisingly, it emerges as the second-most used platform among 12-17-year-olds, by 76%.

Here comes the negative for Facebook: it’s the only platform of the 6 that’s experienced a decline (however slight) in usage among this age group. In 2014, 78% of 12-17-year-olds reported using Facebook, so this year’s figure is basically flat from then.

That stands in stark contrast to some other social networks:

  • Instagram use is up by 17% points, to 69%; closely followed by
  • Snapchat, which is up a massive 28% points, to 67%; with
  • Twitter up 6% points to 53%; and
  • Pinterest, up 13% points to 46%, also seeing growth.

Similar patterns are evident when looking at the annual Infinite Dial report from Edison Research and Triton Digital. In 2015, 74% of 12-24-year-olds reported using Facebook. Fast forward to this year, and that figure sits basically unchanged at 76%.

During that period, reported usage of Snapchat jumped from 57% to 79% of 12-24-year-olds in the US, while Instagram adoption grew from 59% to 73% of respondents

Along with being the only platform that has seemingly plateaued in usage, Forrester also reveals that time on the site has stalled among this demographic.

It’s worth noting that while Forrester’s study puts Facebook above Snapchat in terms of teen adoption, other research doesn’t agree. For example, a new study [pdf] from RBC Capital Markets indicates that 79% of 13-18-year-olds are using Snapchat, compared to 73% using Instagram and just 57% using Facebook, which experienced a large drop among this demographic.

Moreover, that same study found that 13-18-year-olds would choose Snapchat (44%) over Instagram (24%), Facebook (14%) and Twitter (5%) if trapped on a deserted island with access to only one network.

Facebook seems to be suffering from some perception problems. Forrester indicates that roughly one-third of 12-17-year-olds feel that Facebook is for “old people.” And separate survey results from The Verge suggest that only around 1 in 4 (26.5%) people agree that Facebook is “cool.”

With teens’ overwhelmingly ignoring Facebook in their rankings of their favorite social platform, it’s hard to see how adoption will expand among this demographic in the years to come…

Interested in the age breakdown of these social platforms’ adult audiences? Check out MarketingCharts’ 4th annual US Media Audience Demographics report, available here.

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