Are there social networks that are more used by girls than boys, and vice versa? It turns out that there are, which should come as no surprise if you are already using social media other than Facebook – there are horses for courses. For parents, understanding which networks your teens are likely to be using based on how the platforms work and what teens use them for can he helpful.
We took a look at some very good data at Sprout Social that was culled from a number of sources including Pew Internet Research, Facebook, Twitter and Business Insider to see how it actually shakes out. We used the U.S. network penetration among the 18 – 29 year old demographic as shorthand for which networks your teens may be using, or may be using soon. The data is immediately below, followed by our thoughts:
Facebook – Everyone is there but it’s not where the action is (only 14% of teens say that Facebook is their most important social network). Facebook for teens has become pretty well sanitized, mainly because everyone’s parents are on there too. Teens are using Facebook as their de facto online identity, for messaging friends, checking out love interests and because you need Facebook to log into a lot of apps and networks. In the course of compiling our Social Scores for teens, we don’t see too much trouble on Facebook.
Twitter – A hot spot for news junkies, kids with a big voice and athletes, Twitter is used used more by boys than girls. Twitter is a great platform and resource if used responsibly; it’s trouble if used for cyberbullying or trash talking. You can get the latest thoughts from prominent figures (Barack Obama and Taylor Swift both have around 60 million followers) or research the latest news using hashtag searches. If you have something to say that’s funny or insightful, you might attract a large list of followers. It’s the go-to fan engagement platform for sports – from high school to the pros.
Instagram – Photo lovers and visual teens love Instagram, where users are 32% more likely to be female. If your teen would rather say it with pictures or short videos than words, she is probably on Instagram. The platform is one of few that work equally well when set to private (friends only) as when used publicly, when anyone can see your pictures. Depending on your point of view, Instagram can be a big help or a unfortunately big problem for teens with issues such as eating disorders or self-harm tendencies.
Pinterest – It’s mostly girls on this very safe platform. It is safe because Pinterest prohibits all negative content, from sexually explicit material to anything that could be dangerous or harassing. Users create “boards” where they post “pins’ of things that interest tem, making Pinterest a user generated virtual scrap book. It’s fun if that’s your kind of thing, and it’s harmless.
Snapchat – Teens (and girls) really dominate here, where 71% of users are under 25. Snapchat really is what a user makes of it since there is no central public forum for posts. In fact, it acts more like a messaging app than a social network. The “disappearing” photos and videos that users send to individuals or groups don’t really disappear, but teens act as if they do. If your teen is inclined to be sexting or sending pictures of underage parties, he is probably using Snapchat. It is equally likely, though, that he is using it to send silly, impromptu selfies. Parents beware.
Overall, our Social Score work shows that most teens have profiles on more online sites and networks than parents realize. The best way to figure out what your teen is doing online is to talk to her about it. Being forearmed with a little knowledge doesn’t hurt.
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