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Update on Youth and Social Media Use

National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) commemorated on April 10 highlighted that 26% of new HIV cases in the U.S. are among people ages 13 to 24. This year’s theme, Engaging Youth Voices in the Response to HIV & AIDS, reminds us to re-assess how and where we can connect with and “listen to” young people at-risk.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently released “Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015.” This report provides national data about how youth are using social media. For the HIV community, it offers insight into how we might tailor our outreach strategies, social media platforms and messages to reflect the gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic situations of the young people we are trying to reach.

The overview found that 92% of teens report going online daily—and 24% say they are online “almost constantly.”

Pew image on teensHere are five additional highlights from the report:

  • Facebook is still in the lead. Seventy-one percent of American teens ages 13–17 use Facebook, followed by Instagram (52%) and Snapchat (41%).
  • Most teens use more than one social networking site. Nearly three-fourths (71%) of teens report using more than one site, with a focus on Facebook.
  • Middle- and upper-income teens lean toward Instagram and Snapchat. Pew found a distinct pattern in social media use and socioeconomic status. Teens from households earning less than $50,000 are more likely to say they use Facebook (49%) compared with 37% of teens from families earning more than $50,000.
  • Smartphones facilitate shifts in how teens communicate and share information. Texting is an especially important mode of communication for many teens.Eighty-eight percent of teens have (or have access to) a cell phone or smartphone, and 9 out of 10 send text messagesan average of 30 per day. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of teens have access to smartphones and 33% of them use apps. Race and income also do affect usage patterns. Hispanic (46%) and African American (47%)  youth are more likely to use messaging apps than white (24%) teens. Teens on the lower end of the income spectrum are also more likely to use messaging apps on their smartphones.
  • Girls use social media more. Boys are more likely to play video games. Compared with boys, girls use social media much more, particularly visually-oriented platforms like Instagram (61% to 44%) and Snapchat (51% to 31%). On the other hand, boys are more likely to have (or have access to) a game console than girls (91% to 70%), and more likely to play games online or on their phone compared with girls (84% to 59%).

A great way to continue observing NYHAAD is to use this information to inform how you provide HIV resources and engage youth through digital channels.

How does the Pew data compare with trends you see among the youth you serve?

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