Facebook Downplays Problems With Teens

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When Facebook released its quarterly earnings report a few weeks ago, CFO David Ebersman brought up a decrease in young teen engagement during the conference call.

“I want to say a few words about youth engagement on Facebook," he said. "As we’ve said previously, this is a hard issue for us to measure because self-reported age data is unreliable for younger users, so we’ve developed other analytical methods to help us estimate usage by age. Our best analysis of youth engagement in the U.S. reveals that usage of Facebook among U.S. teens overall was stable from Q2 to Q3, but we did see a decrease in daily users specifically among younger teens.”

“We won’t typically call out such granular data, especially when it’s of questionable statistical significance, given the lack of precision of age estimates for younger users, but we wanted to share this with you now since we get a lot of questions about teens," he added. "We’re pleased that we remain close to fully penetrated on teens in the U.S. Our monthly user numbers remain steady, and overall engagement on Facebook remains strong. We’ll continue to focus our development efforts to build products that drive engagement for people of all ages.”

These comments led to a lot of questioning throughout the media about if Facebook is losing teen interest, which could be a big problem for the company, as those teens will soon become adults. Rumors about Facebook trying to acquire SnapChat (which is popular with the kids) has only added fuel to the fire.

Reports had Facebook offering as much as $3 billion - 3 times what it paid for Instagram - for the service. SnapChat has so far declined.

All Things D has a new interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg out, in which she downplays the idea that Facebook as a problem with teen usage.

On that matter, she told Mike Isaac, So I think the reaction to that comment has been blown out of proportion. As we said on the earnings call, overall U.S. teen usage of Facebook remains stable. The vast majority of U.S. teens are on Facebook. And the majority of U.S. teens use Facebook almost every day.'

"I feel like I’ve lived this before," she added. "When I was first at Facebook just a few years in, adults were getting into Facebook in larger numbers and there were all those memes that popped up — 'Oh my God, my mom’s on Facebook!' and that sort of thing. I’m pretty sure 'Saturday Night Live' even did a skit on it."

Yep, they did:

During the interview, when asked about the Snapchat rumors, Sandberg said that Facebook is still dominating a growing market, and that market will see other players growing as well. Facebook seems fine with that, or at least it wants everyone to think it's fine with that.

Meanwhile, rumor has it that Facebook is looking into adding some Snapchat-like functionality to Instagram, another one of those growing players.

Image: Thinkstock/Josh Wolford

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.