Here’s a primer for parents to provide helpful information and perspective to help you keep up to date with the use and trends in teen use of social media.
Teens and Social Media Use
The broad reach of teen social networking
According to Pew Internet & American Life Project’s “Report on Teens, Social Media, and Privacy,” released in May 2013, fully 95% of kids ages 12-17 use the Internet. Eighty-one percent of online teens use some form of social media. Sixty-seven percent of teen social media users visit social sites daily, and 42% visit several times a day.
Facebook is still the #1 social network for teens, but it’s fading
While 94% of teen social media users say they have a Facebook profile, and 81% say that Facebook is social site they use most often, it appears that Facebook’s teen appeal is fading. According to the Pew report, “Many teens expressed a waning enthusiasm for Facebook.” Teens complain of too many adults on the site, advertising, and too much drama interacting with friends.
Teen Twitter use is increasing significantly
Teens largely ignored Twitter when it first appeared and those who used it found it chiefly as a way to stay current with celebrities. In 2009, only 8% of teens used Twitter. Today, the number of teens using Twitter has increased to 24%.
Why teens are migrating to Twitter
The reasoning starts with fewer adults on Twitter than Facebook. While 67% of online adults have Facebook profiles, only 16% are on Twitter. Further, Twitter’s platform and character limit (140 characters) allows kids to express their thoughts, feelings, and what they are doing without the drama that Facebook’s platform of longer posts, endless comments, and “likes” allows.
Advice for parents who allow kids to use Facebook and Twitter
1. Set the expectation that you will friend (Facebook) or Follow (Twitter) your teenager on their social media account. This requires you to establish your own Facebook and Twitter accounts.
2. Facebook: Use profile privacy settings to limit who can access your teen’s content.
3. Twitter: Set Tweet privacy setting to “Protect my Tweets.” This requires your teen to approve everyone who follows them, and then only displays tweets to those who have been approved. Without taking this step, anyone can follow your teen, and all tweets are available to the public. Make sure your teen approves you as a follower.
Teens and Information Sharing
The Changing Landscape
Back in the days when social media was in its embryonic stage, the public’s fear of online predators—where perverts stalked children and teenagers in chat rooms—gave rise to a set of safety guidelines that included the nearly universal warning that kids should be taught to not share any personal information online. While that guideline still exists, as social media platforms have advanced, today it is advice largely ignored.
Today’s social media is based upon the premise of sharing personal information: who you are, your interests, what you think, who you are with, where you are, and what you are doing. Social media technology and platforms are constructed with this in mind. It’s part of social media’s DNA. To avoid sharing any personal information literally means not using social media.
Teens Growing Comfortable
As the social media landscape has changed, teens have grown more comfortable in sharing personal information. According to Pew Internet & American Life Project’s “Report on Teens, Social Media, and Privacy,” released in May 2013, since 2006, teens are more likely to share photos of themselves, school name, the city where they live, email address, and cell phone number via social media. While not measured in 2006, Pew found in 2012 that 92% of teens post their real name, 84% post their interests, 82% post their birth date, and 16% have their social media profile set to automatically include their location in posts.
Risk in Perspective
Stalkers and predators do exist (whether online or offline.) Identifying personal information is part of the predator’s DNA too. As such, social media use does include a measure of risk. But the notion that a stalker lurks behind every new friend or follow request has been sufficiently debunked. So the risk is fairly minimal and can be adequately managed.
Use Privacy Settings
Risk management means helping kids set adequate privacy settings on all social media platforms. Each social media provider will have a different method for privacy settings. The key is to guard against all profiles/posts being made accessible to the public. Kids should maintain a closed circle of friends/followers who cannot opt into their profile and posts without approval.
Picture and Video Apps
What they do: Allow users to take pictures, or capture video clips; to post online or share with friends; and to interact with recipients. Some apps provide editing tools for enhancing the pictures and videos with filters and text.
Devices Utilized: Smartphones, tablets, laptop and desktop computers.
Apps: There are literally hundreds of picture and video apps, but among the most popular are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr, Viddy, Socialcam, and built-in device camera and texting apps.
• Vine – Allows users to capture and post six-second video clips.
• Snapchat – Users can capture and share pictures or video clips, setting a maximum limit of 10 seconds where recipients can view them before they are removed from the recipient’s device and the Snapchat servers.
• Instagram video – Instagram updated its app in June to add video capture capability, allowing users to share up to 15-second video clips.
Why kids love them: Like other aspects of social media, kids enjoy connecting and interacting with friends, making new friends, and sharing thoughts and feelings through social media content. Picture apps allow kids more creativity and spontaneity in their self-expression, and the recent additions of video capability take this a step further.
Why parents should be concerned: Like all forms of digital media, once shared, it’s impossible to ensure control over the content. The potential always exists for kids who use these apps to use poor judgment and post inappropriate pictures and videos (including “sexts.”) Shapchat specifically can lead kids to a false sense of security believing that pictures and videos self-destruct, but savvy recipients can take “screenshots” of content before the content disappears.
How parents can safeguard their kids from misuse of picture and video apps:
1. Discuss social media with kids. Focus on both the positive and negative aspects of using picture and video apps, as well as the importance of protecting one’s reputation.
2. Set reasonable expectations and consequences for social media use, for limiting the sharing of personal information, and for which apps can be downloaded and used.
3. Set and use app or site profile privacy settings to limit content access.
4. Know what picture and video apps are on your child’s phone, tablet or computer.
Apps Teens Are Using
The pace of change in technology makes it difficult for parents to stay on top of what’s current. New social media apps come online regularly and the popularity of apps rise and fall like the tide. In our culture, it is wise for parents to keep up with the apps that our kids are using.
While no statistical measurement tool is available to date, youth culture observers point to the following apps (all are free) as the ones most popular with teens.
1. Facebook. It’s simply Facebook via app instead of using the FB website.
2. Pheed. Consider this an all-in-one social media app, combining text (a whopping 420 characters), photos, video, audio, and voice notes with no time limits.
3. Tumblr. A blogging platform app with social media features and feel. Users can post photos, video, links, and text, often grouped into collections based on themes or interests.
4. Instagram. Users capture and post photos and 15-second video clips. Special effect filters are popular for customization of content.
5. Vine. Users capture and share six-second video clips.
6. Snapchat. Allows users to capture and share photos or videos that are viewable for up to 10 seconds before they disappear and are removed from Snapchat servers.
7. Twitter. The app is similar to the Twitter website. Users can post text up to 140 characters. Posts can include links to web pages, pictures and video clips.
8. KikMessenger. A messaging app that allows users to share text, video, sketches, and pictures.