- Teen ownership of smartphones grew to 89% this year from 41% in 2012, transforming the way U.S. teens consume media and communicate with each other, according to a study by the nonprofit Common Sense Media. This age group prefers texting over talking face-to-face with friends, the study found, with 35% choosing texting as their top choice of communicating and 32% preferring in-person conversations. Six years ago, in-person conversation was more popular (49%) than texting (39%).
- Almost three quarters (70%) of teens use social media multiple times a day, with Snapchat (63%) and Instagram (61%) as the most popular. Facebook's popularity has collapsed with 15% listing it as their main social networking site, compared to 68% in 2012.
- More than half of teens (57%) say that social media and smartphones distract them from doing homework, while 54% said using social media distracts them from paying attention to people they're with.
The preference among U.S. teens for texting over talking is the major difference that Common Sense Media found in this year's survey from six years ago, a result that has significant implications for mobile marketers. This demonstrates that brands may want to explore strategies tailored to the demographic's preferences, such as developing emoji keyboards that teens can use in their text messages, or to reach them with campaigns on image-messaging apps like Snapchat. Facebook doesn't appear to be the platform to best reach U.S. teens, with a survey respondent describing the social network as a place to communicate with her grandparents.
Teens are often the first group to pick up on new tech trends, while their fickle tastes can spell doom for brands that don't adapt their media and marketing strategies. Depending on their household income, parents spend anywhere from about $10,000 to more than $20,000 a year on teenagers, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which translates into a significant market. Teens greatly influence family spending on food, clothes and entertainment, and marketers would be remiss to overlook this powerful consumer group.
The growing popularity of smartphones among U.S. teens has led to growing concerns about the effect of technology on their mental health, with studies linking phone usage to a significant increase in depression and suicidal thoughts in the past several years. Common Sense Media's survey may allay some of those concerns as teens indicate they're aware of how smartphones can distract them from their priorities. Almost three quarters of teens (72%) said they think some tech companies manipulate them to spend more time on their devices, which suggests many teens are aware of the psychological effects of social media.
While Common Sense concludes that parents need to limit the time spent on mobile devices and social media, not all the findings were negative. About a quarter of teens said social media apps make them feel less lonely, while only 3% said using them said they feel more isolated.