Pew Research Study Examines Teens’ Online Habits—Nonprofits Should Pay Attention

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Teens and technology

April 9, 2015; Pew Research Center

The ways young people stay connected are constantly changing. A recent study from Pew, surveying American teens on their online activity, shows some predictable and less predictable trends in how younger people are using technology.

This is the first year Pew has surveyed teens online; in the past, all of their work involved surveying teens by phone. The survey results show that when it comes to social media activity, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat were the most frequently used social media platforms. The chart below depicts what networks are used most often by young people aged 13–17:

Pew graph

Some interesting findings from the Pew Research Center:

  • Teens are constantly connected. Staying connected to your online networks at all times is becoming the norm among younger people. Ninety-two percent of teens report going online daily, and twenty-four percent are online “almost constantly.” Over half of teens go online several times a day, and twelve percent reported once-a-day use. Only six percent of teens report going online weekly, and two percent go online less frequently.
  • Facebook remains the most popular social network. While the world is scouring the web trying to discover the next social media craze to catch fire, it turns out teens actually use the long-established network Facebook most frequently. Forty-five percent of male teens said they spent the most time on Facebook, versus thirty-six percent of females that reported spending most of their time on Facebook. Female teens were more likely than males to report using image-sharing platforms like Instagram and Tumblr frequently.
  • Teens’ social media use differs based on socioeconomic status. Research shows that lower income youth are more likely to state they use Facebook most often, while teens residing in well-off households tend to say they use Snapchat most often.

Youth are continuing to diversify the social streams they use to engage. Pew found that seventy-one percent of teens use more than one social network site. Increased use of smartphones is a significant driver for many of these behavioral changes in how teens use technology to communicate. Eighty-eight percent of surveyed teens have access to mobile devices, and the typical teen sends and receives an average of 30 texts per day. It’s important to note that these trends in mobile use could lead to a larger gap in the social divide, which is reflected in how the social media behavior of teens varies based on household income.

Nonprofits looking to engage youth should look closely at these study findings, research ways to encourage donations through messaging and mobile devices, and make sure they are incorporating the most popular social networks used by the younger generation into their communication strategies.—Aine Creedon

  • Jayne Cravens

    Knowing how a particular demographic group behaves online is important for reasons FAR beyond encouraging financial donations. If that’s all a nonprofit is thinking – this is great info because now we can hit them up for money – then I pity them.

    Nonprofits, here’s a better idea: use this information to:

    — explore ways to reach this audience about your programs and events. How and why should they be interested in such? Could they be clients? Participants?

    — is part of your mission to educate people about a particular issue, maybe even to change hearts and minds about such? Then how could you use this information to educate teens?

    — explore ways to reach this audience as potential volunteers. How and why might teens be interested in volunteering with your organization?