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Youth Statistics
In this section, we offer selected statistics regarding U.S. youth, together with a few statistics focused on New York State. Links and endnotes will connect you to rich resources for further information. These pages are updated periodically.

Youth Statistics: Internet & Social Media

For additional resources, visit Toolkit: Teens and Media. YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are the most popular online platforms among teens According to the Pew Research Center, most middle and high school age youth have access to a computer (88%) at home. Computer access varies by family income and education level. However, nearly all teens age 13-17 (95%) own a smartphone. Most teens (84%) -- especially boys (92%) -- have or have access to game consoles [1].

Communication

Texting is a common communication tool for American teens; among cell phone owners, 90% text [2]. Teen girls age 13-17 typically send and receive 40 texts each day, while boys are half as prolific [2]. Email is still used among teens. Email is teens' preferred method for communications from companies [3], and most teens use email (along with many other platforms) with their friends [4].

Nearly half of teens use video chat services such as Skype and Facetime [2].

Social networking sites offer another popular vehicle for communication. Nine out of ten teens age 13-17 use social media platforms, and most (71%) use more than one [2].

  • YouTube is highly popular among middle- and high-school-aged youth; 85% of teens age 13-17 use the video-sharing platform [1].
     
  • Among social media platforms, YouTube is followed in popularity by Instagram (used by 72%) and Snapchat (69%) in the 13-17 year old age group [1].
     
  • Facebook continues to be used by teens; though its popularity waned considerably between 2015-2018; in 2018, 51% of teens age 13-17 said they use Facebook [1], down from 71% in 2015 [2]. The site is considerably more popular among teens from lower-income families; it is used by 70% of teens in this age group with an annual household income under $30,000 [1].
     
  • Twitter is used by about one in three teens (32%) [1].

Pornography, Flirting, Sexting, and Partner Seeking

Researchers have not reliably established the prevalence of pornography use among youth under 18. A 2016 review of international studies could only conclude that "at least a sizable minority of all adolescents use pornography" [5]. Both males and females view pornography, with male "sensation-seekers" the predominant group [5]. Many youth are exposed to pornography online that they are not seeking. A 2018 meta-analysis found that one in five youth under 18 are exposed to unwanted sexual material online [6].

Teens make new friends online but are less likely to date or hook up with someone they first met online. Flirting or expressing romantic interest is common on social media sites. Most teens who have some dating experience will send flirtatious messages online; teens who have not dated are much less likely to do so. Many dating teens, especially boys, feel more connected to their romantic partner through social media. While most teens say that breaking up by text is socially unacceptable, nearly one in three teens age 13-17 have been told via text that the relationship was over. [7].

"Sexting" -- sending sexually explicit messages or images electronically -- is increasing among youth, and also increases through the teen years [8]. Among youth under age 18, the prevalence of sending an explicit image or message is nearly 15% and the prevalence of receiving one is 27% [8]. Non-consensual sexting is all too common: about one in eight youth forward explicit images or messages without the permission of the original sender, and nearly one in 12 youth have a sext forwarded without their consent [8]. Distributing sexually explicit images of a minor is illegal, and teens have been prosecuted in some cases. Prosecution is more likely if sexting is related to coercion, bullying, or violence, or if the victim is much younger than the person distributing the photos [9]. Fifteen percent of dating teens have had rumors spread about them online or by phone by current or former partners [7].

Adolescent girls take the brunt of unwanted online flirting. While 16% of boys age 13-17 have blocked or "unfriended" a person who was making unwanted advances, 35% of girls have done so [7]. Cell phones and social media can enable controlling behavior before and after a relationship. Among teens age 13-17 who have dated, 13% have had a partner demand that passwords be shared, 11% have been threatened with harm online or by phone, and 8% have had online posts used against them [7].

Dating apps have become increasingly popular with young people. In 2013, just 5% of youth 18-24 reported that they use mobile dating apps; by 2015, that figure had grown to 22% [10]. The proportion of heterosexual college students who use dating apps may be higher: two college-based studies of heterosexual students found that nearly 40% reported using the apps [11, 12]. One non-representative, national study of young (age 14-17), sexually experienced men who have sex with men (MSM) found that just over half use MSM-specific apps to find partners for sex while 30% use general dating apps. Most (83%) of the participants who use the apps or websites reported that they do so because of a lack of access to male partners. Some (31%) do so to avoid being outed. Most of the adolescent males in this study reported that they use MSM-specific apps to meet partners for sex (69%), but they also use them to chat with friends (66%), meet new friends (61%), or find a romantic partner (50%) [13]. Offered a different set of survey choices, heterosexual college students said that they use dating apps to have fun (94%), meet new people (91%), be social/chat with others (90%), find a dating partner (69%), and initiate sex (38%) [8]. Some studies have linked the use of dating apps to risky sexual behavior, such as condomless anal or vaginal sex [11, 12, 13].

Media and Bullying

Some teens use social media (texting, blogs, social networking, etc.) to harass, threaten, or embarrass a peer. Studies on prevalence vary widely; a 2015 literature review found that prevalence ranged among studies from 7%-35% [14]. On average, 28% of middle and high school students who have participated in studies conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center have been victims, and 16% admit to having been perpetrators at some point in their life [15]. Traditional school bullying is associated with cyberbullying for both victims and perpetrators [14].

Endnotes

[1]   Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018, May). Teens, social media & technology. Retrieved September 20, 2018 from the Pew Research Center website
pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/
 
[2]   Lenhart, A. (2015, April). Teens, social media & technology overview 2015. Retrieved September 27, 2018 from the Pew Research Center website:
pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2015/04/PI_TeensandTec
h_Update2015_0409151.pdf

 
[3]   McGowan, M. (2016, September 6). Teens and email: Getting in the inbox. Retrieved September 27, 2018 from the Adestra website
adestra.com/blog/teens-email-getting-inbox/
 
[4]   Lenhart, A. (2015, August 6). Teens, technology and friendships. Retrieved September 27, 2018 from the Pew Research Center website
pewinternet.org/2015/08/06/teens-technology-and-friendships/
 
[5]   Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2016). Adolescents and pornography: A review of 20 Years of research. The Journal of Sex Research, 53(4-5), 509-531.
doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2016.1143441
 
[6]   Madigan, S., Villani, V., Azzopardi, C., Laut, D., Smith, T., Temple, J. R.,...Dimitropoulos, G. (2018). The prevalence of unwanted online sexual exposure and solicitation among youth: A meta-analysis. Journal of Adolescent Health, 63(2), 133-141.
doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.03.012
 
[7]   Lenhart, A., Anderson, M., & Smith, A. (2015, October). Teens, technology and romantic relationships. Retrieved September 27, 2018 from the Pew Research Center website:
pewinternet.org/2015/10/01/teens-technology-and-romantic-relation
ships/

 
[8]   Madigan, S., Ly, A., Rash, C. L., Ouytsel, J. V., & Temple, J. R. (2018). Prevalence of multiple forms of sexting behavior among youth: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 172(4), 327-335.
doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.5314
 
[9]   Lorang, M. R., McNiel, D. E., & Binder, R. L. (2016). Minors and Sexting: Legal Implications. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online, 44(1), 73-81.
 
[10]   Smith, A. (2016). 15% of American adults have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. Retrieved from the Pew Research Center website
pewinternet.org/2016/02/11/15-percent-of-american-adults-have-use
d-online-dating-sites-or-mobile-dating-apps/

 
[11]   Sawyer, A. N., Smith, E. R., & Benotsch, E. G. (2018). Dating application use and sexual risk behavior among young adults. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 15(2), 183-191.
doi.org/10.1007/s13178-017-0297-6
 
[12]   Griffin, M., Canevello, A., & McAnulty, R. D. (2018). Motives and Concerns Associated with Geosocial Networking App Usage: An Exploratory Study Among Heterosexual College Students in the United States. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 21(4), 268-275.
doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2017.0309
 
[13]   Macapagal, K., Moskowitz, D. A., Li, D. H., Carrión, A., Bettin, E., Fisher, C. B., & Mustanski, B. (2018). Hookup app use, sexual behavior, and sexual health among adolescent men who have sex with men in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(6), 708-715.
doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.01.001
 
[14]   Bottino, S. M. B., Bottino, C. M. C., Regina, C. G., Correia, A. V. L., & Ribeiro, W. S. (2015). Cyberbullying and adolescent mental health: Systematic review. Cadernos de Saúde Pública, 31. doi:10.1590/0102-311X00036114
 
[15]   Patchin, J. W. (2015, May). Summary of our cyberbullying research. Retrieved September 27, 2018 from the Cyberbullying Research Center:
cyberbullying.org/summary-of-our-cyberbullying-research/
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