Instagram Is Tops With Teens Again

The latest twice-annual survey from Wall Street firm Piper Jaffray is out this week detailing teen trends, and as usual our focus is in what is happening with teens and social media. This version of the survey recently took the pulse of 9,400 teens aged 13 – 18.

The headline statistic is that, as has been the case since Spring 2014, Instagram comes out on top as the number one “most important” social network for teens. This should not come as a surprise for parents, and if it does, either your teen is an outlier or you need to spend more time talking about how he/she connects with friends.


Our takes on what the results mean for teens (our views, not necessarily fact):

Instagram – IG is winning big time with teens, having taken advantage of a number of trends:

  • Pictures are hot. You can’t post on Instagram without including a picture
  • Posting pics that make you, your food or your locale look cool/glamorous/attractive are hot. Instagram filters are fast and easy to use, and are the standard for effortless in-app editing
  • Messaging is hot, and Instagram allows you to post on your wall, or post privately to 1 – 15 friends
  • Text/prose doesn’t work for all teens. If all you’re looking to do is post or message a pic, you’re either using Instagram, Snapchat or a messaging app

If your teen describes Instagram as her most important social network, she’s in good company.

Facebook – A bit of a yawner here, as FB continues to wane as the most important social platform (bonus for them: they own Instagram). Sure, most teens are on Facebook – for many it was their first social network, some because they need it to check out the cute girl they saw at the mall, others because Facebook login is the standard with many apps. For many teens, there’s too much clutter on Facebook and everyone’s parents and grandparents are there too.

It’s hardly over for Facebook, though, and as teens head off to college and later have families, they’ll be using Facebook more just like most adults now do. For now, Facebook isn’t where the action is for teens, at least not the most important action.

Snapchat – For the second survey in a row, Snapchat is the biggest gainer over the last 6 months. The term “most important” carries a lot of weight here. With Snapchat, there’s no “there” there; not only to pictures disappear after being viewed (unless…) but there is no “wall” to which you’re posting – you’re just sending pics to a friend or group. Nonetheless, a fifth of teens see it as their go-to social app. Our take it that these teens are story tellers who are in the moment, and don’t need to post permanently on a wall or anywhere else. For an important message to a friend or friends, they use Snapchat.

Twitter – The Twitter user base has sorted itself out, and teens who list Twitter as most important are likely either news or sports junkies (Twitter is the best place to get real time info) or outgoing types who always have something to say.

Tumblr – Remember 5, 10 or 15 years ago when amateur writers had their own blog? Those folks are now as often as not found on Tumblr, which functions as a socially connected blogger network.

And what it means for parents:

The idea, which we still hear way to often, that, ”I’m friends with my teen on Facebook so I have a good idea what is going on” is so far behind the times that it just doesn’t mean anything any more. Facebook is only a small part of the picture.

Consider this passage from author Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame:

“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
― Douglas AdamsThe Salmon of Doubt

For many parents, Facebook falls into category 2 above; all other social media platforms are part of the inscrutable category 3. If that is true for you, you’re in good company. It’s not too late to catch up in a meaningful way.

Here’s how you do it: Be open minded – just as you shouldn’t assume that Facebook paints an accurate picture of what your teen is doing online, don’t assume that your teen is madly in love with Instagram. Don’t join every social media platform you can and hope to miraculously catch up. Don’t expect to be privy to every post and message – you can’t and shouldn’t.

Ask your teen what she’s doing online, which networks or apps she is using and who she is talking to. Dig deeper into what she likes about her online experiences, and what she doesn’t like. Ask her to show you what she is doing on her phone. Take a genuine interest.

If you need help, we are happy to offer some backup.




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