Real or virtual? Teen life is increasingly online

by Giulia Alfieri

YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook: Teenagers are spending more and more time online. Here are the data that emerge from a survey by the Pew Research Center about the habits of teenagers

Real and virtual lives mixed. Since 2014, the number of U.S. teens who are "almost constantly" online has doubled. This is stated by a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.


The data collected shows not only that compared to the previous research carried out between 2014 and 2015 the number of daily internet users among adolescents has increased from 92% to 97%, but also that about half of US teenagers (46%) between 13 and 17 years old said they are online "almost constantly". This is almost double the 24% in 2014-2015.


To dominate the ranking of the most used platforms, before social media, however, is YouTube. Although the years pass – it was created in 2005 – it is still used by 95% of teenagers.


It follows immediately after the Chinese social of Bytedance, TikTok, which since its debut in North America has experienced a real surge in popularity.

According to the survey, about 67% of teens say they "always" use TikTok, while 16% say they use it "almost constantly."


Instagram, which is experiencing a period of crisis precisely because of the competitor TikTok, as Snapchat is used by about 6 out of 10 teenagers.


For young people now Facebook "is old" and the numbers confirm it. If in 2014-2015 it was used by 71% of adolescents, now the percentage has collapsed to 32%.

Then follow minor odds that use Twitter, Twitch, WhatsApp, Reddit and Tumblr.


The study also analyzes the amount of time teens spend online. The majority (55%) say they spend "about the right amount of time" on these apps and sites, while for more or less a third of teens (36%) it is "too much time". Only 8% of teens feel they spend "too little time" on these platforms.


From the survey, in addition to the rise of TikTok and the fall of Facebook, other types of data also emerge. For example, that male teens are more likely than female peers to claim to use YouTube, Twitch, and Reddit, while girls seem to prefer TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat.

And that's not all. Black and Hispanic teens are much more likely to claim to always be online than white teens.


When asked about the idea of abandoning social media, 54% of teenagers say it would be "at least partly difficult" to give it up, while for 46% it would be "at least partly easy".

It would be more difficult especially for girls (58% against 49%), in fact, for a quarter of boys it would be "very easy", while among girls 15% say the same.

Even older teens say they would have a hard time giving up social media: about 6 in 10 teens between the ages of 15 and 17 (58%) say giving up would be "at least partly difficult," while a smaller percentage between the ages of 13 and 14 (48%) think it "would be difficult."


If the internet has been the means – for many but not for all – to continue with teaching and extracurricular activities during the pandemic, being always online also means that real-world problems, such as bullying, harassment and abuse, can pose a greater risk for adolescents.

That is why parents and regulators have been and continue to pressure tech companies to introduce security policies and tools such as parental control that can block access to certain activities and also set the screen time of computers, TVs, smartphones and tablets.