Survey: Youth are sharing via video

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In the big moving picture, sharing photos and videos through social media apps continues to gain ground.

The latest findings in the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project released Monday revealed findings that shouldn't surprise any parent of teens and young adults. Although percentages from the 1,000-person survey at first blush appear scant -- 18 percent of cell-phone owners use Instagram and 9 percent communicate through Snapchat -- they help validate the notion that the coming generations are speaking a new language.

But that represents old and new cell-phone users. Those with smartphones -- capable of taking and sending photos -- reported 28 percent using Instagram and 12 percent on Snapchat. Of those surveyed, more than half of adult cell-phone users say they own a smartphone. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of these popular apps is actually much higher.

Rebecca Levey, co-founder of the children's tech website www.KidzVuz.com, said her company's findings support what most people suspect: The next generation of social media mavens is navigating the waters at a much earlier age. In the case of KidzVuz, 8 to 13 years old.

"It's just an upward trend," said Ms. Levey, the mother of twin 11-year-old girls. "For those of us who have been in the video space and certainly the social marketing space, it's been incredibly obvious for a number of years now that video is where everyone is going."

Pew has addressed teen use of social media before, most recently in a report last May. But it specifically chose Instagram and Snapchat for their growing popularity across a variety of demographics. Other growing apps, including Vine, Cameo and Klip, embrace the video trend, and for older users, Pinterest is still performing well.

Instagram, which was purchased last year by Facebook for $1 billion, is a mobile app that allows users to apply creative filters to pictures they take with their cell phones. Users have networks of friends and can choose from varying levels of privacy in sharing these.

It claims to have about 55 million photos shared per day, 16 billion shared since its launch in 2010. Instagram recently announced it would be accepting advertising.

Snapchat is an ephemeral messaging service that creates a temporary text/photo that in most cases disappears shortly after being viewed. Snapchat officials have claimed there are more than 350 million snaps posted daily.

Both services claim to have more than 100 million users. Both state in terms of use that users have to be at least 13 years old to sign up, in accordance with the Child Online Protection Act. This, of course, isn't easily enforced.

"I certainly think the explosion of smartphones has led to this. The fact that everyone has a camera in their pocket and texting has evolved into apps like Snapchat," Ms. Levey said.

She described KidzVuz as "Yelp meets YouTube, for kids." To sign up, users must have a parent or legal guardian also register. The content is all about the video, from reviews to previews to online chats, all monitored.

Tweens and teens like the instant gratification of sites such as Snapchat because "it's easily digestible," she said. There is also the allure of posting something and waiting for the comments and "Likes" to pour in.

This appeals to older users (18-29) as well. The survey revealed that women are more likely to post to social media than men, especially those in the 18-29 age group. In general, men and women in that demographic (more than 75 percent) have posted photos.

The Pew study examined habits of users, distinguishing "creators" (those who took the photos or video themselves) from "curators" (those who post the work of others).

Fifty-four percent of adult Internet users post original content as creators (up from 46 percent last year), compared to 47 percent who are curators (up from 41 percent).

Pew measured frequency of use among those who subscribe to Instagram. It discovered more than a third of its users say they rely on the app on a daily basis. A quarter of users say they check in several times a day.

Across all demographics, experts say the growing trend toward instant messaging via photo or video requires a review of what defines safe, non-offensive practices. Selfies taken at the mall are one thing; selfies taken in the tub are quite another.

"You have to have the conversation with your kids," Ms. Levey said. "We've certainly had enough politicians prove that point."


Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.

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