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Facebook traffic tumbles
November 5, 2018, 1:30 pm

A recent survey by Pew Research Center shows that Americans have drastically cut back their use of Facebook. The survey, conducted in late May and early June, shows that 42 percent of American adult users of Facebook have taken a break of several weeks or more from checking Facebook over the year; 26 percent deleted the app from their phones; and 54 percent adjusted their privacy settings.

Even more alarming for the social media giant is that teenagers are abandoning Facebook in favor of other social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, according to the Pew Research Center study. Just 51 percent of US individuals aged 13 to 17 say they use Facebook – a dramatic plunge from the 71 percent who said they used the social network in Pew’s previous study in 2015, when it was the dominant online platform.

According to Pew, this year’s study showed a “notably lower” use of Facebook among teenagers compared to their use of YouTube (85%), Instagram (72%) or Snapchat (69%). In the previous study, just 52 percent of teens said they used Instagram, while 41 percent said they used Snapchat. YouTube was not included in the 2014-2015 survey.

Use of Facebook was markedly higher among lower-income teens, with 70 percent of those living in households earning less than $30,000 a year using the platform, compared with just 36 percent of those whose annual family income is $75,000 or more.

When asked which of the online platforms teens used the most, only 10 percent said Facebook, while 35 percent said Snapchat, 32 percent said YouTube and 15 percent said Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook. There were also some differences connected to gender. Girls are more likely to identify Snapchat as their most used site (42% v 29%) while boys were more likely to say YouTube (39% v 25%).

This is not the first study to indicate that teens are leaving Facebook. In February this year, an eMarketer study estimated that Facebook’s user base among Americans aged 12-17 declined by 9.9 percent in 2017 — almost three times greater than the same research firm had predicted in August of 2017. The company predicted that Facebook would lose a further 2.1 million American users under the age of 25 this year.

Teens are highly prized by social platforms for a number of reasons: people tend to take their habits with them as they age, they give platforms the ‘cool factor’ and attract advertisers. Analysts say this demographic shift could pose a “greater existential threat” to Facebook than the privacy concerns to have emerged following a string of scandals associated with the social media giant, including the highly damaging Russian interference in elections and the Cambridge Analytics scandal.

Other findings in this year’s Pew study include the fact that 95 percent of teens now say they have access to a smartphone — up from 73 percent in the 2015 survey. Some 45 percent of teens say they use the internet ‘almost constantly’, around twice as many as the 24 percent who said this in 2015.

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