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A Tectonic Shift: Teens Are Online Constantly, Youtube And Snapchat Top Facebook In Popularity

It should be fairly obvious by now that there’s a huge shift happening in entertainment for children and young adults – and much of that shift is directly tied to how children and teens consume entertainment nowadays.

A new study published by the non-profit Pew Research Center today revealed some fascinating insights into how media consumption habits are evolving in the U.S. among teens 13-17. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The most used online platforms by U.S. teens are Youtube (85%), Instagram (72%), Snapchat (69%), Facebook (51%), Twitter (32%), Tumblr (9%), and Reddit (7%). This is a significant shift from 2014-2015, when Facebook dominated social among teens. Back then, the top platforms were Facebook (71%), Instagram (52%), Snapchat (41%), and Twitter (33%).
  • In terms of which platforms teens use the most, the figures shift. For this, Snapchat is the go-to for 35%, followed by Youtube (32%), Instagram (15%), and Facebook (10%).
  • Girls are more likely than boys to say Snapchat is the site they use most often (42% vs. 29%), while boys are more inclined than girls to identify Youtube as their go-to platform (39% vs. 25%).
  • 95% of U.S. teens age 13-17 now report they have a smartphone or access to one at home. Only 88% have access to a desktop or laptop at home.
  • 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis, compared to just 24% in 2014-2015.
  • 84% of teens say they have or have access to a game console at home, and 90% say they play video games of any kind (whether on a computer, game console or cellphone).

This survey, more than anything, helps explain why ratings at legacy children’s cable networks (Nickelodeon/Disney Channel/Cartoon Network) are tanking hard. With teens spending nearly half their time online – and younger generations shifting even further toward being wired at all times – something had to give, and it turned out to be cable/satellite tv.

However, another key here is that the most used social platform by teens is Youtube, which is a content consumption medium. It’s not that teens have stopped watching content altogether, they’re just consuming it differently than previous generations.

That’s why tech companies like Netflix, Amazon, Google’s Youtube, and Apple are pumping mega-dollars into content creation. It’s really anyone’s game to win: the tech companies have a superior content delivery system over legacy media brands, who are scrambling to wean themselves off of cable and satellite; on the other hand, legacy media has more experience in creating content, though that advantage could diminish rapidly as tech companies become more aggressive about poaching children’s entertainment executives and key creative talent.

Of course, where both the tech companies and the legacy brands falter is the type of content they’re producing. Younger generations are increasingly rejecting corporate entertainment in favor of content produced by people their own age, whether it’s Let’s Play videos, vlogs, or other types of short-form web content.

And the X factor in all of this is gaming. Nine out of ten teens play games of some sort according to the study. Will gaming supplant passive viewing in the coming years? Surprisingly Twitch wasn’t part of the latest Pew survey, but it’ll likely be in the next one they do.

No one really knows what’s happening, but one thing is definitely clear: disruptive trends in children’s and young adult entertainment are the new normal, and they’re going to be for the foreseeable future.

(Photo by Anthony Kelly under CC BY 2.0)

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