REPORT: Teens Still Use Facebook (And Can Master Privacy Settings)

By Justin Lafferty 

Yes, teenagers use Facebook. And although whether or not they’ll be using Facebook in a few years remains to be seen, the site does have a considerable presence among high-school students. The Pew Research Center recently examined how teens use social media, finding that they don’t like drama and having their parents connected to them, but they stay on Facebook because it plays a key part in the social experience. However, Facebook’s youngest users tend to have no problem configuring privacy settings.

An extensive report released Tuesday by Pew shows that the median teen Facebook user has 300 friends. Girls and older teenagers tend have substantially larger friend networks than boys and younger teens.

Other findings from Pew:

  • 98 percent of Facebook-using teens are friends with people they know from school.
  • 91 percent are friends with members of their extended family.
  • 89 percent are connected to friends who do not attend the same school.
  • 76 percent are Facebook friends with brothers and sisters.
  • 70 percent are Facebook friends with their parents.
  • 33 percent are Facebook friends with other people they have not met in person.
  • 30 percent have teachers or coaches as friends in their network.
  • 30 percent have celebrities, musicians, or athletes in their network.

The people in teens’ friend networks changes based on race and gender, as well. Girls are more likely than boys (37 percent versus 23 percent) to be Facebook friends with their coaches or teachers. 48 percent of African-American teens in the survey said they have celebrities, athletes, or musicians in their News Feeds, compared with 25 percent of white teens.

However, while 70 percent of teens surveyed are Facebook friends with their parents, focus groups conducted by Pew show that this kind of interaction is the main problem for the age group. Teens felt like with mom and dad electronically close by, they couldn’t truly express themselves, opting for sites such as Twitter and Instagram:

In focus groups, many teens expressed waning enthusiasm for Facebook. They dislike the increasing number of adults on the site, get annoyed when their Facebook friends share inane details, and are drained by the “drama” that they described as happening frequently on the site. The stress of needing to manage their reputation on Facebook also contributes to the lack of enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the site is still where a large amount of socializing takes place, and teens feel they need to stay on Facebook in order to not miss out.

Unlike many of their adult counterparts, teens feel they’re pretty good at managing their Facebook privacy settings. 60 percent of teens aged 12 through 17 in the study say they have their Facebook profile private, so only their friends can see it. Another 25 percent have privacy settings geared toward friends of friends, while 14 percent of those surveyed said their profiles are totally public.

Girls (70 percent) are more likely than boys (50 percent) to have private profiles. 20 percent of boys surveyed said they have public profiles, compared with 8 percent of girls.

  • 56 percent of teens in the study said it’s “not difficult at all” to manage privacy controls on their Facebook profile.
  • 33 percent said it’s “not too difficult.”
  • 8 percent said managing privacy settings is “somewhat difficult.”
  • Less than 1 percent described the process as “very difficult.”
  • 41 percent of 12- and 13-year-olds polled said that it is “not difficult at all” to manage privacy settings, compared with 61 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds.
  • Boys and girls are similarly confident about controlling their privacy on Facebook.
Readers: Do you still think Facebook has a problem with a lack of teens?


Image courtesy of Shutterstock.