Half of teenagers in the US use the internet “almost constantly”. But where do they spend their time online? – The European Sting – Critical news and insights into European politics, business, foreign affairs, business and technology | Panda Anku

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This article is brought to you thanks to The European Sting’s collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Stefan Ellerbeck, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, nearly half of US teens ages 13 to 17 say they’re online “almost constantly.”
  • The most popular social media platforms in this age group are YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, with less than a third saying they use Facebook.
  • However, the UN says that 37% of the world’s population has never used the internet, indicating an ongoing global digital divide.

Lockdowns imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic have forced young people around the world to spend more time indoors. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the time they spend online has increased. However, new research offers some interesting insights into exactly how much time teenagers spend online and which websites are taking up the most time.

A survey of 1,316 teenagers ages 13-17 in the US shows that 97% now use the internet daily, up from 92% in 2014-15. Perhaps the most striking finding from the Pew Research Center, however, is that 46% say they use the internet “almost constantly” — a significant increase from 24% in 2014-15.

The biggest teenage internet users

Black and Hispanic teens use the internet more than their white peers, with 55-56% saying they are online almost all the time, compared to 37% of white teens, according to the survey. The researchers say this trend is consistent with previous research.

Older and urban teens of all races and backgrounds are also more likely to be online. And just over half of teens in households with annual incomes of $30,000 to $74,999 say they use the internet almost constantly, compared to 43% of teens in households with incomes of $75,000 or more.

Which sites do young people use?

The survey also asked US teenagers which social media sites they use. YouTube was the most popular, with 95% saying they visit the website or app regularly. Next came TikTok at 67%, Instagram at 62%, and Snapchat at 59%.

But the proportion of teens using Facebook has plummeted since 2014-15, falling from 71% to 32%. Use of Twitter and Tumblr has also declined.

About three-quarters of teens surveyed use YouTube daily, with 19% saying they use the site or app almost constantly. 58% of TikTok use it daily, about half say the same for Snapchat and Instagram.

Of those who use Facebook, only 7% say they use it almost all the time. Researchers say the platform is still widely used by adults.

Many teenagers worry about their use of social media

While 55% of teens surveyed say the time they spend on social media is about right, 36% are concerned they use it too much, with teenage girls more likely to say this than boys.

Would it be easy for them to leave social media? Opinions were divided – 54% said it was very or “somewhat difficult”, while 46% said it was “at least somewhat easy”.

Teenage girls are more likely than boys to say it would be difficult to quit – 58% versus 49%. And there’s a similar divide between older and younger teens, with older ones saying it’s harder to stop using social media.

The digital divide

Around 95% of teens now have access to a smartphone – up from 73% in 2014-15 – and 15-17 year olds are more likely to have one than 13-14 year olds.

General access to laptops and gaming consoles has changed little, but more affluent teenagers are more likely to have these devices at home. Around 82% of households earning more than $75,000 have game consoles, compared to 70% of households earning less than $30,000.

When it comes to desktop and laptop computers, the gap is even wider: 94% of the wealthiest households own them, compared to 79% of low-income households.

Driving digital inclusion

The United Nations says that 37% of the world’s population, or 2.9 billion people, have never used the internet.

The World Economic Forum created the EDISON Alliance to help close the digital accessibility gap around the world. It brings together around 50 leaders from the public and private sectors to drive change around digital inclusion.

The Alliance’s 1 Billion Lives Challenge aims to improve the lives of 1 billion people by 2025 by providing affordable and accessible digital solutions in health, education and finance.

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