Why don’t teens tweet?

The Pew Internet & American Life Project came out with an updated survey today, which found that only 8 percent of Americans aged 12-17 use Twitter, and that blogging is much less popular than it was in 2006, when the survey was last conducted. Now only 14 percent said they maintained their own blogs, which is half of the 2006 figure.

I had an opportunity to discuss some of the reasons for this Wednesday, in advance of the public release, with Mary Brophy Marcus (@BrophyMarcUSAT) of USA Today, for her story related to the study.

“To quote my 15 year-old-son, ‘Twitter is lame,'” says Lee Aase, manager of social media at Mayo Clinic. He says Facebook and texting may be satisfying teen chat needs.

“They’re so into text-messaging that that niche is already sort of filled for them,” he says.

Aase also says some teenagers may grow back into blogging as they hit adulthood: “Blogging has become a way to communicate with the world, about more meaningful issues, not just about communicating to friends.”

Read the full story, and get more details on the Pew site.

As I see it, the big thing that has changed since 2006, causing blogging to decline, is the immense popularity of Facebook, which was still pretty new back then. And with Facebook’s chat feature, combined with text messaging, most young people already have ways to do the short message communication with people who matter to them…their friends. There really isn’t much incentive for them to go to Twitter, because most of their friends aren’t there anyway; they’re all on Facebook. Or they can be reached via SMS.

It’s different for adults; many of us actually use our cell phones primarily for voice calls instead of text. And we see Twitter as a way to make connections with people who have common interests.

What do you think? Are there other reasons why teens don’t tweet?

5 thoughts on “Why don’t teens tweet?”

  1. Thanks for the post Lee. Teens don’t Tweet because they haven’t figured out how Twitter is meaningful yet. And they probably won’t because they don’t see the big picture. Once they do, they aren’t teens anymore.

    Texting and even Facebook messages are (sort of) limited to point to point contacts. If they knew they could simultaneously “text” with the 25 or so people they text now, only everyone could see everyone else’s messages .. but you could still do private messages … they’d probably be blown away. The other good reason — following influential people in your field or area of interest — is lost on teens because they don’t have areas of interest other than their girlfriend/boyfriend and the Jonas Brothers.

    My 14-year-old nephew is on Twitter because, “I want to learn more about the Internet and you’re in Twitter.” He gets it. His friends? Not so much.

    Great topic for discussion. I’d love it if your son’s friends came and made fun of us old fogies here a bit. Heh.

  2. Great post Lee! I think Jason is right on with his comments.

    Ironically, I had a similar conversation with my 14-year old daughter just the other day. Instead of the word “lame,” she just said “boring.”

    I suspect that there’s a misunderstanding — and not with just teens — as to what a blog actually is. Also, I sometimes feel that the word “social” in “social media” is a misnomer. While social media can and should be social, it doesn’t have to be limited by that either. The sharing of ideas with one another is a tremendous benefit of social media, and through that interaction we get to know each other too. After being in school all day, I suspect that many teens — such as my daughter — don’t feel like learning any more. They’d rather talk about Friday’s dance or the next trip to the mall.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Lee.

    The teens I know like Facebook for these reasons: chat feature, no character count limits, photo sharing, interactive nature of wall posts and– perhaps most important– they feel like they have a place of their own. It’s their version of the clubhouses we used to have. And they can post a “Do Not Disturb” sign by picking and choosing who they accept as friends.

    I believe that in time, teens will move their text activity to Twitter. But for that to happen, both the teens and Twitter have to grow into adulthood.

  4. My take about why they don’t tweet is similar to Kris’: teens want privacy. Tweeting is too public, parents or other lower life forms may see what they’re saying/thinking/feeling. It’s probably the functional equivalent, for them, of a parent listening in on a phone extension. Remember when phones had extensions? I was expert and knowing when my mother had picked up on the other end, no matter how subtle she thought she was being!

    On a different note, could we all start making a more concerted effort to remove the adjective “lame” from teen vocabulary. I make this request as someone who has spent the past 6 years as a personal aide to a woman with quadriplegia. The disability community is rightfully, I believe, offended by this usage, along with the adjective “retard.” Just noticin’

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