An insightful study about teens and Instagram was recently published by the Pennsylvania State University. In it, Jin Yea Jang,  Kyungsik Han, Patrick C. Shih, and Dongwon Lee of the College of Information Sciences and Technology division, reveal some interesting facts on how teenagers interact with the photo sharing platform. Using a combination of tag mining and facial recognition, the team managed to extract key findings without ever reaching out to any of their subjects. In an effort to save you time and avoid  sometimes very stale academic language, we extracted the key elements for you. In other words, here is the version:

Note: Teens are defined here by people  who are between 13 and 19

General :

• Teens use diverse social media sites and maintain multiple forms of communications because each channel affords different ways of interacting with others.

• Teens express themselves and share personal stories online more than senior adults (over 60)

•  Teens maintain more social connections than the elderly (over 65).

  • 90% of Instagram users are under the age of 35


Teens post fewer photos than adults.


They are likely to receive more Likes per photo than adults

They add more tags  per photo than adults.

and, they also have more comments  per photo than adults, showing higher interactions in Instagram.

On a deeper  analysis  of the tags associated with the posted images, here is what the research reveals:

Instagram Topics by age group

  • Teens tend to post topics related to themselves and focus on self-expression.
  • For teens,  more than half of photos are in the “Mood/emotion” and the “Follow/Like” topics while very few on “Location” compared to adults. This could be a direct relation to teens lack of travel budget. Teens are also less likely to post artsy images.
  • Teens tend to remove more photos than adults. Over and over, teens monitor more closely the reaction to the images they post and systematically remove those that do not perform well in terms of “likes”, comments or shares.
  • This may be because attention generated by Likes has become one way of establishing self-validation and self-worth, and teens want to show off their “coolness” to the public.
  • Selfies on Instagram
  • Out of 1,000 teen posted photos, more than 1  in 4 are selfies while, for adults, the ratio is 17%.
  • A qualitative analysis of teens’ Instagram bio descriptions revealed that teens actively advertise others to follow them, which would also lead to gaining popularity, making friends, and making their photos more visible.

The study suggests, in conclusion, topics for future research:

“Why do teens post fewer photos?”

“What makes teens engage in Liking, tagging, and commenting?”

“To what extent do teens and adults consider social media a conversation space?”


The full PDF version of the study can be downloaded here.


Photo by davitydave

Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is a highly influential and visionary leader in visual tech, with 20+ years of experience in licensing, tech innovation, and entrepreneurship. He is the Managing Director of MelcherSystem and has held executive roles at Corbis, Stipple, and more. Melcher received a Digital Media Licensing Association Award and is a board member of Plus Coalition, Clippn, and Anthology, and has been named among the “100 most influential individuals in American photography”


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