You may have seen the above headline a few times, or read about it here. A survey by a Wall Street research analyst this month found that Facebook is losing ground as the most popular social network for teens.
Most adults who are on the internet have a Facebook account themselves, and if you are reading this you probably do too. Once your kids started using Facebook, how did you react? Perhaps you “friended” your kid, hoping to keep tabs on her or even because you genuinely want to interact with her online. Maybe you avoid her on Facebook, choosing to let her and her friends be themselves. If you are friends on Facebook and are uncomfortable with some of the things you’ve seen, or if you’re avoiding her and hoping for the best, perhaps the fact that Facebook is losing some popularity among teens is a relief.
Not so fast. Leaving Facebook doesn’t mean your teen is leaving social media altogether. She is probably going to another platform, or several, and possibly somewhere that will make it more difficult for you to keep track of her. Where did she go?
Kik, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Vine – Sending text messages is nothing new. Some teens send hundreds per week, or more. A new class of smartphone apps has emerged that allow users to text messages, pictures or video to friends or groups. Under normal circumstances these messages are mobile-only, so you won’t find them on the internet if you are looking for them, unless someone posts a message to another network, which can be serious problem.
Twitter – Aliases are permitted, and many people use them. Twitter may be the most popular network for kids who are seeking attention, and can also be the medium where bullying show up.
Instagram – Mobile photo sharing app is growing fast and home to troubling activities such as junior high beauty contests.
Tumblr – Building your own blog has never been easier, many users are anonymous and sexually suggestive content and nudity are permitted.
Reddit and 4Chan – The wild west of social media. These no holds barred message boards are home to some NSFW activity that would make most parents blush.
Because of the nature of Facebook (find your friends!), most people use their real name and real email address when they sign up, so it’s relatively easy to find your kids on there. They want their friends to find them so you can too. Other networks make anonymity much easier. At some, it is even encouraged.
If your kid has stopped using Facebook, or is using it less, does not mean that you no longer need to be worried about what she is doing online. Stay vigilant and keep the conversation going with your teen, or as we like to say, trust but verify.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.