Get Smart! New Data Shows How Youth use Mobile Social Media - what this means for HIV prevention

Content From: HIV.govPublished: July 17, 20183 min read


Pew Center study graphic. Lower-income teens are more likely than teens from higher-income households to use Facebook. 70% of teens in households of less than $30K use Facebook. For $30k-74,999 it's 56% and for $75k or more it's 36%.

According to a new study from Pew Research Center on Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018Exit Disclaimer:

  • Forty-five percent of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis, up from 24% the last time that Pew surveyed teens on technology use in 2015.
  • Smartphones ownership seems to be driving this trend - 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one, a trend which holds regardless of race or income.
  • 85% of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they use YouTube, followed by Instagram (72%), and SnapChat (69%).
  • Facebook is reportedly used by a little over half (51%) of teens today, while in 2015, 71% of teens used Facebook
  • More than two-thirds of teens living in households earning less than $30,000 a year say they use Facebook (70%), compared with 36% whose annual family income is $75,000 or more. In comparison, In 2015, 51% of teens from households earning less than $30,000 a year say they use Facebook, compared with 35% whose annual family income is $75,000 or more.

What does this mean for HIV? In 2016, according to the CDC, youth aged 13 to 24 made up 21% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States. Most (81%) of those new diagnoses occurred among young gay and bisexual men. Young black/African American and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men were especially affected.

In addition, according to the CDC, among people living with HIV and receiving medical care, young people aged 18 to 24 are more likely than older people to be living in households with low-income levels, to have been recently homeless, recently incarcerated, and uninsured or to have only Ryan White Program-funded health care.

Therefore, HIV service organizations need to consider how best to reach these populations to provide HIV, prevention, care and treatment, and data like this may provide some of the answers. Social media and websites designed to provide information on mobile devices and smartphones could help address stigma and misperceptions about HIV as well as deal with feelings of isolation that can lead to risky behaviors among LGBT youth.

However, according to Dr. Maranda C. Ward, from Promising Futures, a D.C. based youth development program, "Youth-serving organizations just having an online and/or social media presence is not enough, if youth are not actually using YouTube and Instagram for non-entertainment purposes. Further exploration is needed to determine the type of online health information accessed by youth so we adequately supplement our face to face HIV prevention services."

For more insights, and to begin your own exploration, read the Pew Research Center’s report on Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018Exit Disclaimer. Also look out for more posts on Youth, HIV and Digital Media from over the rest of the summer.

For technical assistance on how you can use your organizations’ website and social media to reach at-risk populations, sign up for’s free, on-demand technical assistance program, Virtual Office Hours. In addition, consider adding like’s HIV Testing Sites and Care Services locator, which can be viewed on both desktops and smartphones to help connect youth with services.