Your Teen’s Social Media is a Moving Target

New research this month from Wall Street firm Piper Jaffray highlights why it is so difficult for parents to stay on top of what their teens are doing online – it keeps changing. The semi annual Piper survey, titled Taking Stock With Teens, was conducted this summer and took the pulse of 7,200 teens with an average age of 16, and was not limited to their social media habits but that’s what we’ll focus on here.

The results in summary form:


Source: Piper Jaffray Research
Source: Piper Jaffray Research

Our thoughts on the results:

Instagram – The photo-based social network takes over the top spot from Facebook, and is used by 76% of teens, up from 69% in the Spring survey. These days, it’s all about pictures for many teens (note: Snapchat and other messaging apps were not included in the survey). Not surprisingly, the same survey showed that 67% of teens surveyed own an iPhone (great camera), and 73% expect their next phone to be an iPhone. Selfies are hot.

Twitter – Twitter was the second most mentioned social network, used by 59% of teens. In our opinion, Twitter is popular with three distinct groups:

  • Athletes, who use Twitter to follow sports and athletes and to reach college recruiters
  • Kids who have a lot to say, and use Twitter as a megaphone
  • Kids who are very into news and current events. Twitter remains the best real-time search engine, and a great place to hear the thoughts of news makers

Facebook – This is a shocker, as has been noted by lots of folks this week. Only 45% of teens surveyed use Facebook, down from 72% in the Spring survey. Our take is that for many teens, Facebook has too many adults, too many family members and too many ads.

“Don’t Use Social Networks” – 8% percent of teens report not using any social networks, up from zero in the Spring. Are some kids getting tired of being constantly connected? I’ve never actually met one of these, but if you have one living in your house, please let us know.

In summary, if you’re the parent of a teen, there is a greater than 45% chance that he has an account on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and probably a few other social networks. Friending him on Facebook will not give you a true indication if what he is doing online. A year from now, a similar survey will probably reveal very different results. If you want to get a clear look at what is going on, you can sign up for ThirdParent today.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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