The researchers said that while these social media giants may claim to be able to self-regulate their practices in reducing harm to young people, they are yet to do so.
Social media giants like Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and Snapchat collectively gained nearly USD 11 billion in advertising revenue in 2022 from users younger than 18 years, according to a new US-based study.
Researchers said that approximately 30-40 per cent of the advertising revenue generated by Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube was attributable to young people.
They found that while among users aged 12 and under, YouTube derived the greatest ad revenue of about USD 1 billion in 2022, among those aged 13-17 years, Instagram generated the highest revenue of about USD 4 billion.
The team led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University, also found that from users aged 13-17 years, TikTok derived USD 2 billion and YouTube USD 1.2 billion in 2022, suggesting that these platforms have “overwhelming financial incentives” in continuing to delay meaningful steps to protect children against the harms of using social media.
The researchers said that while these social media giants may claim to be able to self-regulate their practices in reducing harm to young people, they are yet to do so. They have published their findings in the journal PLoS ONE.
“Our finding that social media platforms generate substantial advertising revenue from youth highlights the need for greater data transparency as well as public health interventions and government regulations,” lead author Amanda Raffoul, instructor in paediatrics at the Harvard Medical School, said.
For the study, the researchers used public survey and market research data from 2021 and 2022 to estimate the number of young users engaging with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, X and YouTube and the related ad revenue accrued by these platforms.
The research team also used population data from the US Census, along with market research and parental control app data, to estimate the number of youngsters engaging with these platforms and the average minutes per day spent on them.
From all this data, the researchers built a simulation model to calculate the ad revenue that these platforms earned from the young.