Video chat gaining in popularity among teenagers, study shows

Video chat is gaining in popularity among teenagers, a new study from the Pew Internet Project shows. Chatting via Facebook, Skype and other social network tools is becoming an important way for friends and families to stay connected.

Paul Sakuma/AP
Video chat is gaining in popularity among teenagers, a new study from the Pew Internet Project shows. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, watches a demonstration of Video Chat at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., on July 6, 2011.

Among US 12-to-17-year-olds, the most avid users of videochat – such as on iChat, Skype, or “hangouts” in Google+ – are also the most avid social networkers, according to just-released data from the Pew Internet Project, indicating to me how integral video chat is becoming to socializing and keeping in touch with friends and family.

This study focused on teens, but I have a feeling the numbers are just as high and climbing among whole families with kids in college and extended families spread out geographically.

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Pew looked into two other uses of online video too: video recording and uploading, such as 1) producing and sharing do-it-yourself music videos and clips of exploits in video games or vlogging (video blogging) on YouTube, and 2) live video streaming like what 16-year-old Texas singer Austin Mahone does on Ustream.tv (he has a YouTube channel too). The researchers found that:

  • 37% of online teens videochat, girls (42%) more than boys (at 33%). Age doesn’t make a huge difference: 34% of online 12-to-13-year-olds use video chat and 39% of 14-to-17-year-olds do.
  • At 27%, teens’ video recording and uploading has almost doubled since Pew’s last look at this in 2006, when 14% were doing so. And girls have nearly caught up with boys in this aspect of online video activity. In 2006 the numbers were 19% boys and 10% of girls; now it’s 28% of boys and 26% of girls. With this activity, age makes more of a difference – 30% of teens 14-17 record and upload video, compared to 21% of 12-to-13-year-olds. The researchers add that the numbers suggest cell phone use “does not relate to teens’ likelihood of recording or uploading videos” – 28% of teen cell phone owners share self-produced video while 25% of teens without cell phones do.
  • Only 13% of teens stream live video, with little distinctions by age or gender (13% of boys and 12% of girls), but “social media users are more likely to stream video” than non-social networkers (14% compared to 5%, respectively), Pew says. And interestingly, “other choices that teens make about their online privacy do not relate to their likelihood of streaming video…. there is no statistically significant difference among teens with private, semi-private or public profiles.

As for social media use in general, Pew’s latest: 77% of all teens have cellphones (23% have smartphones) and 97% of those phone owners text; 40% of texting teens videochat compared with 27% of non-texters.

More than three-quarters, 77%, of all teens use social sites; 16% use Twitter. Comparing their use of video to non-socialnetworkers, Pew says “teens who use Facebook and Twitter are more likely to use video chat, with 41% of Facebook users chatting (compared with 25% of non-users) and 60% of Twitter users using video chat (compared with 33% of non-Twitter users).”

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs at NetFamilyNews.

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