Teens Haven’t Abandoned Facebook

Facebook logoFacebook is dead to us.”

Why teens are leaving Facebook: It’s “meaningless”.”

3 reasons young people think Facebook is lame.”

U.S. teens are deserting Facebook faster than ever.”

There have been no shortage of headlines and thought pieces over the last four years about Facebook being on death’s door with teens, and as the logic goes, on its way to obsolescence. Teen preference is viewed as an early indicator of what will be mainstream consumer behavior down the road, so if teens aren’t using Facebook now, surely they won’t be using it as adults.

In a piece that we wrote yesterday citing teen research by brokerage firm Piper Jaffray, we noted that teens do indeed prefer both Instagram and Snapchat to Facebook. That is true for the moment, and maybe will be true in the future, but there is data in the survey that paints an anything but grim picture for the future of Facebook.

The survey polled 10,000 teens – a very big sample – and the full survey results broke out responses by age. Percentage of teens who use Facebook:

  • 14-year olds – 34%
  • 15-year olds – 43%
  • 16-year olds – 54%
  • 17-year olds – 62%
  • 18-year olds – 62%

That trend is pretty clear: Older teens are more likely to use Facebook than younger teens. It probably wasn’t always true. Before Snapchat and Instagram existed, of course Facebook was probably number one with 14-year olds. It was the only show in town.

Today, Snapchat and Instagram are cooler, but older teens are indeed adopting Facebook. We touched on why that might be true back in April 2015. Here’s what we currently see happening that is driving later teen Facebook adoption, but adoption nonetheless:

“Sign in using Facebook” – this is the go to onboarding method for many apps, internet sites and messaging forums, many of which make logging in with Facebook the easiest or only login method. 54% of social sign ins are made using a Facebook account.

Dating – Facebook remains the easiest way to check out that cute girl you saw at a school dance or football game. If you like what you see online, or confirm that she doesn’t appear to have a boyfriend, sending a friend request is much less anxiety producing than asking them out on a date.

Facebook Messenger – Especially early on in a friendship, it is easier to add someone on Facebook then hit them up via Messenger than to ask for their phone number. Messenger is the preferred massaging app for lots of people.

Family – If a mom asks a teen, “Did you see the pictures of cousin Heather’s new baby?” she is probably referring to pictures posted on Facebook.

In early 2015, a Pew Research survey found that 71% of teens use Facebook. According to the data in the Piper Jaffray study, that number is now down to 52% 18 months later. That’s a big decline, but higher numbers for older teens indicate to us that Facebook, while slightly less dominant due to the number of cool alternatives, isn’t going away any time soon.

From Venture Capitalist Josh Elman:

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-9-45-27-am

Even if Facebook isn’t as cool as it was, it’s becoming something of a utility.

 

 

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Snapchat and Instagram Dominate Social User Growth

The Harvard University Institute of Politics released a study recently titled Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service. The study polled 2,011 18 – 29 year olds in the fourth quarter of last year asking questions about a number of topics. The one that caught out eye was the section on social media use.

Not surprisingly, Facebook is the most used social media platform, being used by 81% of respondents, a 1% increase over the past two years.

The fastest growing social media platforms were Snapchat, which grew 8% over the past two years, and Instagram, which grew by 7%.

Harvard social media

Despite their rapid growth Instagram and Snapchat are nowhere near Facebook level of ubiquity. Instagram is used by only 46% of respondents, and Snapchat by only 36%.

Will either ever get to 80%+ penetration? It is possible, despite the fact that there are many options out there. Taking Stock with Teens, a survey by Piper Jaffray released this month polled over 6,500 teens about their social media use. The Piper survey found that 75% of U.S. teens use Snapchat and 74% use Instagram, while only 59% use Facebook. Snapchat and Instagram, in that order, were most highly ranked when asked what is your “most important social network?”

Piper social media survey
The times are changing.

 

 

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Piper social media survey

Snapchat – Causing Dilemmas For Parents Since 2011

We wrote a post last year titled “Is Snapchat Safe for 10, 11 and 12 Year Olds?

Official age limit aside, our conclusion in that post was, “if you are allowing a tween to download and use Snapchat, you are trusting that she is mature enough to keep herself safe from predators and cyberbullies, and to stick to age appropriate behavior.” While it wasn’t the topic of that post, the same goes for 13 and 14-year olds.

We stick by that conclusion for the most part, but we were struck by a comment left by a reader under that post, which you can read below (emphasis added):
snapchat-logo

“My parents still won’t let me get it. I am 13 and I never get in trouble. They don’t understand how much I don’t get included into [because] nobody uses text messages anymore. I just hope they understand how much I get picked on at school for being the only one in the whole grade without it. And to be honest everyone just uses it to text and connect with people it would be weird to just randomly text.”

We’ll be the first to say that “everybody else is doing it” is never enough reason for parents to say yes to something. However, we acknowledge that the pressure is on this girl’s parents to do just that. If as this girl asserts, she is the only one in her group of friends who is not using Snapchat, her parents have put her in an unfortunate situation.

From what we’ve seen, there are groups of 8th graders where every kid has a smartphone and is using Snapchat. We have no doubt that some of them are using it inappropriately, and there is no foolproof way for parents to guard against an impromptu gaffe.

If this girl is as responsible as she says she is (we admit there’s no way of knowing that), we’d encourage the parents to let her use Snapchat.

That isn’t the end of our advice. Saying, “Yes” is just the beginning of parenting with respect to Snapchat, or any other social network or app.

Lay out firm guidelines: Be very specific as to what kind of behavior is appropriate. Sexting is never okay. Neither is cyberbullying. Talk about how she should react when she sees a friend being cyberbullied. Talk about which types of friend requests she should accept. Tell her to treat every post as if it’s public and permanent.

Agree what will happen if she violates the rules: If she runs afoul of your guidelines, will she lose her Snapchat privileges? Her phone? Spell it out beforehand, but try not to put her in a position where she will be reluctant to come to you with problems.

Monitor activity: You won’t be able to monitor all of her Snapchat activity. You should be able to get a good idea of how she’s using the app if you talk to her about it often, and you should.

Do some research: There is plenty of content on the web about how teens are actually using Snapchat. By learning a little about Snapchat, you can greatly increase the meaning in the conversations you have with your teen.

Smartphones are definitely here to stay, and Snapchat looks like it is as well. Saying yes to Snapchat can increase your parenting workload an your stress level, but at some point it is the right thing to do.

 

 

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Snapchat Launches Desktop Interface

Snapchat used the Academy Awards ceremony last night to roll out a feature that we’re guessing not many people were clamoring for – Snapchat for desktop.

Snapchat-desktop

The reason that we say not many people were clamoring for it is that Snapchat is a platform that fits perfectly with users who are always – almost literally – their phone. It was launched not mobile-first, but mobile-only, so users knew of no other way to experience it.

snapchat-logoAccording to tech news site TechCrunch:

“The web player puts Snapchat in more direct competition with cross-platform products like Twitter Moments which already have established desktop presences. It also opens up the possibility of web embeds for Snapchat content in the future where users will be able to engage with curated event experiences on third-party sites.”

One caveat for users – as Snapchat make moves (we think this is the first of many) to make its content simultaneously available on the web as well as mobile, the chances go up that your teen’s snaps end up more widely distributed on the web than would have been the case in a mobile only use-case.

If your teen is using Snapchat for sexting, or sharing party pictures and videos, or anything else that she would rather not have in the hands of strangers, the risk with rogue Snapchat pics leaking out goes up a little as Snapchat’s evolution continues.

And, once snaps make it onto the web, it becomes much easier to share those images and video on other social media platforms.

The conversation around Snapchat will get a little louder this week thanks to these changes. Perhaps you can use this news as an opportunity to discuss appropriate Snapchat use with your teen.

 

 

 

 

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Snapchat Updates Privacy Policy

New today: Snapchat has updated its Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for the first time since November 2014. A lot has changed in a year in the social app landscape and with Snapchat itself, but other than changes that deal with in-app purchases and some of the other new features that Snapchat offers, not much has changed here.

In reading the documents, though, we came across two things that could be of particular interest to parents. Here is the first:
Snapchat-logo

“No one under 13 is allowed to create an account or use the Services. We or our partners may offer additional Services with additional terms that may require you to be even older to use them. By using the Services, you state that…you can form a binding contract with Snapchat—meaning that if you’re between 13 and 17, your parent or legal guardian has reviewed and agreed to these Terms”

Have parents read the Terms and Privacy Policy? Probably not. This is significant because we believe that most parents are not on Snapchat, and therefore don’t have practical knowledge of how it works. It is also true that many or most of the 13 – 17 year old crowd is using Snapchat. Exact current numbers are impossible to come to but we can tell you:

Has your teen agreed to anything sinister on your behalf when it comes to Snapchat? Not really, and as a matter of fact so far they’ve avoided the type of privacy evolution that gives users less control over their data over time, a la Facebook.

There is no smoking gun with respect to Snapchat privacy other than possibly the second thing we found interesting:

Snapchat’s Privacy Policy does remind users that a primary feature of the app is far from a given – that is, that pictures disappear after having been viewed. Indeed, there are many situations in which your data and/or pictures are not actually deleted, at least not immediately and perhaps not ever.

  • “users who see your messages or any other content you provide can always save them, either by taking a screenshot or by using some other image-capture technology”
  • “Some of our services, such as My Story, Replay, and Live, allow users to interact with the messages and content you provide through the services for a longer period of time”
  • “We can’t guarantee that messages and corresponding metadata will be deleted within a specific timeframe”
  • “we may also retain certain information in backup for a limited period of time or as required by law”
  • “We also sometimes receive requests from law enforcement requiring us by law to suspend our ordinary server-deletion practices”
  • “other companies use cookies, web beacons, and other tracking technologies on the services. These companies may collect information about how you use the services and other websites and online services over time and across different services”

Although some teens are up to no good on Snapchat, the app itself is not inherently bad. Sexting, cyberbullying and other risky or inappropriate activities take place on other apps and social media as well – simply downloading Snapchat is not a gateway to these activities. We do encourage parents to understand what the rules and terms are, so they can be forearmed in guiding appropriate teen behavior.

Edit as of 10/30/2015 – The following has been brought to our attention – some people think that Snapchat now has broader rights to use your photos. We’re not so sure. We will be updating this post soon. From Snapchat’s Terms of Service:

“But you grant Snapchat a worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license to host, store, use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, edit, publish, create derivative works from, publicly perform, broadcast, distribute, syndicate, promote, exhibit, and publicly display that content in any form and in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). We will use this license for the limited purpose of operating, developing, providing, promoting, and improving the Services; researching and developing new ones; and making content submitted through the Services available to our business partners for syndication, broadcast, distribution, or publication outside the Services.”

That is bad.

 

 

 

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Is Snapchat Safe for 10, 11 and 12 Year Olds?

Snapchat-logoThere is no data available about how many underage users are on Snapchat. That in itself is a problem, but it’s part of the landscape. If you want to lie about your age when you sign up for a social site, you can. In our experience, any kid with a phone can figure it out.

Snapchat’s stated age limit is 13, but since it is the social app with by far the youngest user group – fully 45% of users are under 25 vs. 20% for the other major social networks and apps – we can assume that many kids under 13 are using it. Is it safe for kids? Let’s take a look.

How Snapchat works is pretty simple: users take a photo or short video (a “snap”), annotate it with text or doodles, set the timer for how long the content will be viewable before it “disappears”, then send it to a friend or group. It is very in-the-moment engaging, but there are issues:

Pictures don’t really disappear – Snapchat has backed off the claim that pictures disappear, but users have been carrying on as if they do. What are the risks?

  • According to one forensics firm, deleted pictures are saved in a hidden file in one’s phone. Pictures and video can be retrieved by someone with the correct skill set.
  • The recipient can take a screen shot, although the sender will be notified if she does
  • If the recipient has a jailbroken iPhone, he can save all incoming snaps without notifying the sender
  • The recipient can take a photo of the snap with another phone or camera
  • Unopened snaps are saved on Snapchat’s servers for 30 days

If someone does manage to get a picture that your child sent, it can be posted anywhere online, with or without your child’s knowledge. If your child is not sending or receiving anything untoward, the above issues really don’t matter much, but risks are risks.

No parental controls – Even if you use software downloaded to your child’s phone to monitor his activity, you won’t be able to see what he is sending or receiving via Snapchat.

Location data – In order to use certain Snapchat features, including Filters and Our Stories, users must opt in to sharing their location data. If your tween has Snapchat “friends’ who are actually strangers, this is a risk.

Who are your friends? – When you first download the app, you can build a list of Snapchat friends from you phone’s address book. For the average tween, this shouldn’t be a problem. We have, however, seen far too many examples of young users posting their Snapchat username online, either in forums or in their Instagram or Ask.fm profiles or feeds. This type of friend collecting can be very dangerous.

Questionable behavior is seen as acceptable – Young kids learn by example, and it’s no secret that while Snapchat is not only, or mostly used for sexting, it is the go-to app for sending risqué pics to a love interest. A study published last year found that 1 in 4 adolescents aged 12 – 14 are involved in sexting. Can the 10 – 12 year old crowd be far behind?

In Snapchat’s case the app is not the problem; user behavior is. It’s not much different from other social apps. From the document, “A Parents’ Guide to Snapchat”:

“…there’s no need to panic every time you hear a media report about something awful happening in social media. The reason the news media cover awful situations is because they’re rare. How often do you see headlines about planes landing safely?”

That’s true to a point, but if you are allowing a tween to download and use Snapchat, you are trusting that she is mature enough to keep herself safe from predators and cyberbullies, and to stick to age appropriate behavior. Since that’s a lot to ask of a youngster, we caution parents to wait until kids are older before allowing them to get involved with Snapchat.

 

 

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Taylor Swift Talks Teen Selfies, Gets it Right

Taylor Swift, who has been bringing some sanity as well as hugely popular good deeds into the social media news flow of late, had some great comments this week on selfies. Specifically, in an interview with IG-teen-selfieITV, she commented on how wedded teens and tweens are to their selfies, and how that’s a bad idea.

“You have teenagers who are attaching their self worth to how many likes they get on a picture they just posted. I don’t necessarily think that’s a healthy way to see yourself. I want to always be there to tell them, that’s not the most important thing – whether this picture got 50 likes and that picture got 10. Please don’t base your day and your happiness and your sanity on that.”

What does it mean for parents, whose teens and tweens spend more time on their phones than they do with family, and who use the selfie as a mode of communication and the central image of their personal brand? The pressure is on, and you can get started today.

Don’t deny that it’s happening – It’s truer in our experience for girls than boys, but either way, there could be hundreds of selfies “out there” of your child. If you search on Instagram for the hashtag #selfie, you get 288 million results! Also true is the fact that for some girls, how many “likes” those selfies get is very, very important – a measure of popularity or of the strength of your friendships or feedback on your attractiveness.

You should be talking about it – As a parent, frequent communication can ensure that it all stays healthy. As a first step, make sure that your teen always knows that she has your love and support. Ask her which social networks and apps she is using, and what she does there. Help her to be self-confident and resist the urge to look for others for affirmation.

Understand that not all “friends” are friends – If your teen is in the like collecting business, she probably accepts friend or follow requests from just about anyone, since it’s a numbers game. That means that many of her Snapchat friends and her Instagram followers are not real friends. This could be unsafe from a predator point of view, but it’s also unhealthy to be seeking the approval of people who are complete strangers. She should understand this.

You probably won’t be hearing the truth – Your first conversations will likely not be that helpful. Of course she’ll assure you that all is well; that she isn’t gaming the like system. To her, her behavior just feels like regular teen stuff.

You need to keep doing it – Kids change, and just because your teen or tween isn’t on Snapchat today, doesn’t mean she won’t be tomorrow. If she doesn’t care much about her clothes and makeup now, she will at some point. Those changes are likely to play out at least in part on social media. The more often that you’re talking about what she is doing online, the more likely you are to sense that something is amiss.

Day in and day out, you won’t be able to stay on top of everything this is happening with her online life. By communicating frequently and hopefully openly, you will be in the best position to make sure nothing goes off the rails.

 

 

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Snapchat and Selfie Anxiety

Snapchat, mainly due to its being the go-to app for sexting, gets a bad rap but perhaps it serves an important role in the online life of some teens. If all of your friends are posting selfies to Instagram or Facebook and you don’t want to, what are your options?

“It is depressing that we’ve turned self-portraiture, the most intense, worrying and neurotic of arts, into a big collective joke.”

That from an article last week at The Guardian by Jonathan Jones called “RIP the selfie: when Prince Harry calls time on a craze, you know it’s well and truly dead”.

snapchat-logoI don’t agree with a whole lot in that article. That Price Harry called out a young girl for wanting a selfie is not earth shattering news. Nor is the fact that some people don’t like selfies.

I wouldn’t have seen the article at all but for the fact that a journalist I follow on Twitter used Snapchat as an example  in a rebuttal of sorts to the article and in doing so used the term “selfie anxiety”. The idea of selfie anxiety immediately struck a chord with me.

Selfies themselves aren’t good or bad and they probably won’t be as popular down the road as they are today. Their popularity will fade – like tie dyed shirts and hacky sack. Here’s the thing, though – some kids do suffer from some level of selfie anxiety for a number of reasons. Perhaps they aren’t happy with their look, their wardrobe, their lack of trips to exotic locales or fear the lack of likes that they might get. Not being involved in the selfie movement can make them feel left out.

Enter Snapchat, which gives teens an ephemeral alternative to a permanent online post – a more fleeting, less vote-needing alternative. Instead of posting a pic of yourself publicly for everyone to see (and mock, or ignore), you can take a selfie and send it to a controlled group of friends. As a bonus, if the pic is not well received, it’s no big deal. Unless the recipient takes a screen shot, the photo will disappear and become a distant memory before you know it.

Posting too many selfies is not great, but there are worse things. Needing constant affirmation from people liking your pics is not healthy. But sharing the odd picture, even using Snapchat, could be a great alternative.

 

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Can Police Obtain Disappearing Snapchat Pictures?

For at least some of its 100 million users, Snapchat is the go-to app for sending pictures that should never see the light of day. Want to send a nude selfie? Use Snapchat. Working on a drug deal? Use Snapchat. The pictures disappear so the evidence is gone. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

snapchat-logoThis week Snapchat unveiled its first Transparency Report – a rundown of all official government requests for user data and Snapchat’s response history – and the info might give some users pause.

For the period November 1, 2014 through February 28, 2015, Snapchat received 403 requests from government entities regarding user accounts, breaking down as follows:

  • 375 from the U.S.
  • 28 from foreign governments

Snapchat supplied some or all of the data requested in 92% of the U.S. cases and 21% of the foreign government cases.

If the pics disappear, you might be wondering what exactly the governments might be hoping to retrieve. It’s instructive to look at the most recent version of Snapchat Guide for Law Enforcement to see what is really happening.

  • Snapchat keeps (and can turn over) pics for 30 days in the event that they haven’t been viewed by all recipients
  • Snapchat retains records of meta data for all messages sent and received – to/from, date and time – but not the message content, and will turn over this data in response to a search warrant
  • Snapchat has the personal info that you supplied on file – user name, email address, phone number and the date the account was created

For furtive Snapchat users, the principal risk remains the chance that a recipient takes a screenshot of your picture, or otherwise manages to capture it before it is destroyed, then forwards that pic or posts it somewhere online. It is true, however, that Snapchat does have records that it will turn over to law enforcement – a fact that makes it an imperfect solution for covering your tracks if you are up to no good.

 

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Snapchat’s New Sexting Message is Really for Parents

If you’re the parent of teens, you may have seen a headline in the past week such as, “Snapchat tells teens: Keep your clothes on.” You may even have read the article.

snapchatThese articles were prompted by an update to Snapchat’s Safety Center, which includes the following admonishment for teens:

“Keep it legal. Don’t use Snapchat for any illegal shenanigans and if you’re under 18 or are Snapping with someone who might be: keep your clothes on!”

We can’t argue with the message, nor do we want to; the problem is that it won’t do any good unless parents are involved.

Think of it this way: If Snapchat told your teen to take his clothes off, would he? Nope. If Snapchat told your teen to hold her breath until she turned blue, would she. Again, no.

Like much of corporate communication, this was written not to inform the reader, but rather to protect the writer. Snapchat can hold themselves out to the community at large as having done something material to curb the transmission of underage nudity. Mission not accomplished, in our opinion.

There is one thing positive that this may end up accomplishing. Snapchat has sent a clear message to parents that they know teen users are sending nudes to other users, and the downside is significant enough that Snapchat is concerned about repercussions.

Inappropriate teen behavior of almost any type is first and foremost a parenting issue, and parents need to step up their game.

  • Is your teen using Snapchat? You should know the answer to this.
  • Have you talked to your teen (or tween!) about the risks of sexting? If you haven’t yet, you should.
  • At what age? Well, if your child has a smart phone, the risks of sexting should be something you have covered by now.

Snapchat, while being problematic because it is one of the “in” messaging platforms and is commonly used for sexting, is not the problem. If your teen is inclined to send risqué pics, there are plenty of other options to make that happen. That being said, Snapchat is often the medium of choice because people believe the pictures self-destruct, even though they don’t necessarily do so.

Parents can use the Snapchat safety update as a reason for having the sexting discussion with the kids. If you’ve had it already, you can have it again. In our experience, parents think nothing about warning about the risks of drugs, or drinking and driving, over and over again. It’s time that sexting got the same level of attention.

 

 

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