US Teens are Actually on Google+ for Some Reason

By Kaila Hale-Stern on at

A new Pew research study on US teenagers’ social media habits has a few surprising results. America's youth is still on The Facebook en masse, with Instagram and Snapchat close behind. But 33% reported using Google+. Tied with Twitter! Come again?

Google’s attempt at building a social network hasn’t had much popular traction beyond the tech-minded set (Giz US's readers are fans). But teenagers? This appeared unlikely. And indeed, the Google+ numbers are worth a closer look.

For one, use doesn’t mean regular use. Pew Associate Research Director Amanda Lenhart explained that the study looked at two data points: whether you use a service at all, and then whether it is the service that you use most often. When the numbers were broken down like this, 33% of teenagers in the study reported using Google+, but only 5% reported that they used it the most.

And there’s another explanation for why over a third of tweens are on Google+: the social network’s forced integration with YouTube and other Google services.

As Lenhart pointed out, “[w]hat’s challenging about the Google + data is knowing how much teens distinguish it from the suite of other Google products—many of which are essentially bundled together from the users’ perspective, and some of which a portion of teens may now be asked to use for school—think using Google docs to work on a document with classmates.”

In other words, teens probably aren’t thinking about the Google’s social network when answering the question about Google+ usage — but they probably aren’t thinking about schoolwork, either. In a move that made no one on the internet happy, Google strong-armed a YouTube/Google+ integration in 2013, making it so you were required to have a Google+ account in order to comment and utilise YouTube functionalities that were once independent from the Google mothership.

Teenagers’ use of Google+ is no doubt bound to YouTube, where they feed a vast ecosystem of “celebrity” YouTubers I’ve never heard of that makes me feel old and yelling about kids on my lawn. As for why such a high percentage of teenagers use Twitter, I’ve got nothin’. Nobody should be using Twitter.

[Pew Research Center]