Part of the reason that it’s so difficult for parents to stay on top of what their teens are doing online is that there are no quick rules that tell you which social networks and apps teens are using, or how they use them. This is borne out by three recent articles penned by teens about their social media habits: a 19-year old college student, a 15-year old (presumably in high school) from Australia and a 13-year old American middle school student
Let’s take a look at what they had to say about the following platforms.
19-year old – “It’s dead to us. Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave.”
15-year old – “Unless it’s something to do with family or making me look like a good Samaritan then no way I’m posting [ ] on there.”
13-year old – Not mentioned
19-year old – “Instagram is by far the most used social media outlet for my age group…Meaning, although the most people are on Facebook, we actually post stuff on Instagram.”
15-year old – “I used to post every photo on here but now it’s different. I want to but I have to first take a couple of photos, pick the best quality one, put it through a white border app, maybe a filter…and if it will look clean on my profile, then okay.
13-year old – “Instagram is HUGE in middle school. This may sound funny but for some people, who you follow and how many followers you have dictate school relationships. Not liking a picture your friends put up is the highest of insults. At the end of the day Instagram is like your passport in middle school.”
19-year old – “Snapchat is quickly becoming the most used social media network…where we can really be ourselves while being attached to our social identity. Without the constant social pressure of a follower count or Facebook friends, I am not constantly having these random people shoved in front of me.”
15-year old – “[I use Snapchat when] I want to just open my camera, snap a couple of photos and share them privately to people I want right away. Snapchat is capturing and will dominate the millennials of this generation. Raw, unedited photos and videos make it so intriguing. Snapchat is built for digital natives; not for the mobile first but the mobile only generation.”
13-year old – Not mentioned
These are the observations of three teens, nor necessarily generalizations about all of their peer group. If asked about some of the less widely used platforms like Tumblr or Ask.fm, we would expect and even more varied set of opinions.
Age drives some of the differences in preference above, but not all in our opinion. Which platform your friends are using, whether you’re drawn to photos or text and whether you’re primarily a producer or consumer of online information all play a part.
If you’re a parent trying to understand what your teen is up to online, there are no easy answers. The teen social media landscape changes so quickly that it is impossible to stay ahead of the game, but here are some tips for getting in the game:
- Talk to your teen about what kinds of things she is doing online
- Ask her often about which social networks she is using, and who she is connecting with
- Try one or two of the networks that you are not currently using to see what types of things people are posting
- Pay attention to media reports detailing which networks are most problematic (i.e. Yik Yak, Ask.fm) and what types of problems occur frequently (cyberbullying, sexting)
- Check out the ThirdParent service to see your teen’s Social Score, a clear picture of your teen’s public online identity and activity
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.
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