Hidden Income Social Media Generates from Children Revealed


Key Points

  • According to a Harvard research, big social media companies made $11 billion from child-targeted advertisements, which sparked demands for government intervention.
  • With $959.1 million and $4 billion in revenue from kids and teenagers, respectively, YouTube and Instagram topped the charts.
  • Significant earnings from minors were also made by Snapchat and TikTok, which prompted questions about industry self-regulation and enhanced security.

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Major social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube took in an astounding $11 billion in advertising revenue from minors in the US last year, according to a recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

These results have led to a fresh push for government regulation of social media, as sector self-regulation seems to have failed.


A monetary reward for regulation

The study’s findings highlight the urgent need for governmental regulation of social media, especially in light of its effects on kids and teenagers. Scholars contend that sector participants have fiercely opposed previous government attempts to create strong safeguards for juvenile users.

The recently discovered information indicates that social media companies have a strong financial interest to resist laws designed to protect children.

To arrive to these startling numbers, researchers integrated data from a number of sources, including surveys from Common Sense Media and Pew Research as well as U.S. Census demographic statistics. They added insights from Qustodio, a parental control tool, and Insider Intelligence to these sources.

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The researchers calculated the amount of time kids spend on each of the six major platforms in 2022 as well as the yearly advertising revenue each of the platforms produced by integrating these datasets.

Revenue from social media advertising, broken down by platform

The Harvard analysis estimates the revenue earned by minors, even though the platforms do not publicly reveal this information. With an estimated $959.1 million in advertising revenue among children under the age of 12, YouTube came in first, followed by Instagram ($801.1 million) and Facebook ($137.2 million).

With users between the ages of 13 and 17, Instagram led the way in terms of advertising revenue, bringing in almost $4 billion. TikTok and YouTube came in second and third, respectively, with $2 and $1.2 billion.

Income streams specific to a platform

Snapchat stood out in particular because it is anticipated that users under the age of 17 will account for 41.4% of its advertising revenue by 2022. With 35% of the total, TikTok came in second, followed by YouTube with 27% and Instagram with 16% of their advertising revenue coming from this group. Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, disclosed smaller figures, attributing just 1.9% and 2.0% of their combined yearly advertising revenue to users under the age of 17.


Social media companies receive a sizable portion of their money from minors, which has prompted questions about the influence and risks these platforms pose to younger users. Critics contend that government intervention is required since the industry’s self-regulation has not been sufficient in safeguarding susceptible users.

Government inquiry up for discussion

Government effort to protect children’s and teenagers’ wellbeing in the digital age has been sparked by these findings. Proponents of regulation contend that depending only on the goodwill of social media corporations is insufficient, given the financial incentives at play.

It is unclear how governments would handle this issue as talks about regulating social media networks pick more steam. The Harvard study offers insightful information that clarifies the amount of money made from minors in the advertising industry and emphasizes the necessity of thorough regulation.

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