According to a new study that was led by Harvard, major social media corporations raked in over $11 billion in ad revenue in just the US. Released on December 27th from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, they uncovered the earth-shattering truth behind Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, and X, formerly Twitter.
In the study, they focused exclusively on accounts for child (0–12 years old) and adolescent (13–17 years old) users. According to their figures, 50 million minors were exposed to YouTube, 7 million were on X, and 9.9 million have a Facebook profile. Additionally, another approximately 18 million found Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok had the content they wanted.
Specifically, “The greatest advertising revenue profits derived from children ages 0–12 years old was from YouTube ($959.1 million), followed by Instagram ($801.1 million) and Facebook ($137.2 million). Among youth ages 13–17 years old, the greatest estimated advertising revenue was generated on Instagram ($4 billion), TikTok ($2 billion), and YouTube ($1.2 billion).”
These figures accounted for a significant portion of the respective profits for each company. 41.4% of Snapchat’s 2022 ad revenue came from minors. Plus, 35% of TikTok’s, 27% of YouTube’s, 16% of Instagram’s, 1.9% of Facebook’s, and 2% of X’s all came from kids using their apps. Spread out across the platforms, an estimated $2.1 billion comes from those under 13 and $8.6 billion from those 13-17. As such, the report says these companies are not doing what they promised to do to keep kids safe.
As they simply see it, these companies have no financial obligation or incentive to keep these dollar-making eyes off their apps.
“We undertook this study to inform health researchers and policymakers about how much revenue is generated from youth users and how many children and adolescents actively use the major social media platforms, with a goal to inspire greater data transparency and political will to protect young people online. Our estimates suggest that social media platforms derive considerable profits from youth users, emphasizing the need for greater transparency and regulation of their practices to ameliorate potential harms to youth mental health.”
Bryan Austin, senior author and professor with Harvard’s Department of Social and Behavior Sciences, explained that depression, anxiety, and disordered eating are becoming associated with minors using social media. He went on to say that their research shows that the lack of financial incentive to make these apps strictly for adult use is causing ever-increasing problems for American youth.
Research like this only confirms what many have known for ages. Social media has been raking in cash from unsuspecting users for ages. Even those who pay to be “verified” are being inundated with ads, and advertisers are willing to pay a pretty penny to have their ads in front of your kids.
As an entire industry devoted to social media advertising continues to churn out profits hand over fist, the users of these apps find their feeds clogged with ever-increasing ads and suggested posts. The once-limited paid spots on apps like Instagram now feature more unrequested content than the posts people actively look for. Posting things that come from the digital footprint we create by using the internet, our mobile phones, and even our Amazon accounts, these advertisers ensure we know they exist.
Putting a price on our kids and their future should never be done, especially for advertising. As Americans, we are a capitalist country, but we need to be responsible for it. Poisoning kids with social media and its ads is a horrible risk for us to take with them. As it stands there are countless people will ill intentions on the apps posing as kids, and trying to take them away. We don’t need ads making their job easier.