Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen went public earlier this month with allegations that the social media giant prioritized profits over people—and the revelations keep coming. And while younger users may be particularly vulnerable, data shows that teens don’t care about Facebook as much as previously.
Starting Friday, a consortium of news outlets have published a number of reports based on documents provided by Haugen and other Facebook employees portraying a company that not only hid around how potentially damaging its products are to teens and the public at large, but also permitted everything from terrorist content and drug sales to misinformation on its platforms. Additionally, the leaked documents reveal that Facebook may have kept investors in the dark on the level of risk various systemic problems posed for the company.
“The choices being made inside of Facebook,” Haugen said, are “disastrous for our children, our privacy, and our democracy.”
Yet only 2% of teens rate Facebook as their favorite social media platform, according to the latest Taking Stock With Teens survey released earlier this month. In fact, Facebook’s reign continues to decline. Facebook usage among teens has dropped from about 60% using it at least once a month in spring of 2016 to 27% of those surveyed using it monthly in fall 2021. Overall, Piper Sandler found that teens spend an average of 4.2 hours per day on social media.
Facebook’s own research, based on the leaked documents, seems to confirm this: The time U.S. teens spend on Facebook was down 16% year over year, and fewer young adults are signing up for the platform.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, remains the platform where teens spend the most time. And that could be troubling considering that the leaks revealed Facebook internal research from March 2020 found that of teen girls suffering from negative body images, 32% of felt Instagram made them feel worse.
More than eight in 10 teens reported using Instagram at least once a month, according to Piper Sandler’s survey of 10,000 teens across 44 U.S. states. The average aged participant was 15.8 years old.
Some researchers, however, say that Facebook’s internal research around its potential to cause harm to teens may not tell the whole story—especially since it was based on such a small subset of participants and relied on self-reported data.
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