Do you know what Social Media your teen is using?

CBR001155Many parents know that it’s important to monitor their teen’s use of social media, so they get a Facebook account and friend their child. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. A recent survey from Piper Jaffray suggests that while Facebook remains the number one social network, its popularity among teens is declining. Only 33% of teenagers consider Facebook the most important social network – 10% fewer than last year – and 30% say Twitter is the most important. Instagram came in third with 17% of teens.

The study suggests that Facebook usage is declining among youth, not because teens are now using a new particular social network, but because they are increasingly using a wide variety of applications. Teens stay on Facebook to engage with friends; however, they are not very active on the site because they do not want their parents and grandparents seeing everything they are doing. Teens are increasingly moving to other applications that focus on quick messaging, provide instant gratification, use visual tools, have a mostly young audience, and are not followed by their relatives.

Most parents are aware of Facebook and Twitter. Here is a rundown of the other social media options teens are using:

Instagram. This photo editing and sharing application is very popular with teens, especially with girls who love their “selfies” – a picture taken of yourself to post online. Instagram allows users to edit their photos with a wide selection of cool filters and post the pictures, all from their cell phone. The images are publicly visible by default, so you should talk to your teen about their privacy settings. Additionally, there have been problems on this app with sexually suggestive photos.

Kik. This smartphone messenger system is fast and simple. Instead of sending emails and texts, users can exchange videos, sketches, smileys and any other media with each other. Teens love “memes,” similar to hashtags (a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic), and Kik allows them to search for and share images, memes and YouTube videos. This is generally one of the safer apps teens are using.

Pheed.  Pheed allows users to share all forms of digital content – links, images, videos, audio, and live stream  – in 420 characters or less. Teens are the primary users of Pheed (81% of Pheed’s user base is between 14- to 25-years-old), which is one of the top apps in the iPhone store. Each user gets their own channel where they can post their content publicly or privately. Pheed offers social media features similar to Facebook, but is also a full service broadcast medium.

Pinterest. This website organizes its users by their interests. It is very popular because it is easy to use, very visual, shares neat ideas quickly, and allows users to save content to view later. Users create boards, which are like digital bulletin boards where favorite content is “pinned.” Although there is some sexually explicit material, your teen likely won’t find it unless they are looking. Overall, this is a safe place.

Reddit. This forum is a social news and entertainment website. Registered users submit content in the form of either a link or a text. Other users then vote the submission “up” or “down”, which is used to rank the post and determine its position on the site’s pages. Content entries are organized by areas of interest called “subreddits”. 4chan is a very similar forum platform, but users are anonymous. The concern with forums is that your teen can connect with almost anyone.

Snapchat. In 2013, over 60 million photos were being exchanged daily on Snapchat, which is even higher than Instagram (40 million photos uploaded each day). Snapchat is a messaging service where users can send customized photos, videos, texts and creative drawings to a regulated list of people. Photos and media get destroyed a few seconds after they have been received, giving Snapchat users an illusion of anonymity (however, the receiver could take a screenshot of the image before it’s destroyed and keep and/or share the image). Teens like this feature over Facebook, which archives every post and image for anyone to see for years. The biggest risk on Snapchat is that teens may send inappropriate content because they think it will be destroyed and they won’t get caught.

Tumblr. Tumblr is a blogging platform that focuses on imagery and short posts. It’s perfect for short attention spans; hence, youth love it. Photo, audio, and video posts are often re-shared from other sites with very little text. The culture is based on topics (memes), such as fashion, pop culture, and photography. A user can create collections of media that express their personality. If your teen has a Tumblr account, you should peruse their media collection to see what matters to them.

Vine. Users create short (6-second) videos, which can then be instantly shared on Twitter and Facebook – perfect for the youth demographic that wants to create visual content quickly. Vine is kind of like Instagram for videos. The only problem here is the type of content your teen decides to create. For example, the new viral trend is for friends to sneak up on unsuspecting victims, smack them in the face violently and record their shocked and mortified reactions to Vine using the hashtag #smackcam. Expect plenty of inappropriate content here.

Wanelo. This app is every teen girl’s dream come true. Wanelo stands for “want, need, love.” Users post images and links to products, which are then bought, saved, tagged and shared by other users. When enough users tag a product, a store page is created. Users can follow stores and get updates when new products from those stores are posted. The biggest threat of this app is to your bank account.

Final Thoughts…

Parents should stay aware of all of the social media their teen is using and periodically monitor it. On a side note, a recent study discovered that teens’ exposure to their friends’ online pictures of partying or drinking, increased their likelihood of both smoking and alcohol use. Be aware that the online behavior of your teen’s peers are a source of influence in their lives.

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