Social media is a vast world that inundates teenagers' lives. The primary place for socializing is no longer the playground or cafeteria - it's the smart phone. The Internet has been around for a while now, and many parents are aware of the dangers it can pose for children. Therefore, we put measures in place to protect the home computer. However, the computer has become a secondary utility to the smart phone.
I hope this post can be an introduction for parents who aren't familiar with the various social media entities out there today. For this post, we'll discuss some of the more public social media services. We'll go through various services with a brief description and some tips on how to protect your children. Next week, we'll tackle some more private social media services such as Snapchat, Kik, Ask.fm, and of course, texting.
Instagram - www.instagram.com
Instagram is easily the most popular social media among teenagers today. Users post pictures of various things in their lives - friends, food, music, etc. These posts are viewable to anyone who "follows" their account. Users can also "like" others' photos and submit comments. A lot of interaction happens in the comments.
Your account can be set to public or private. If public, anyone can view your posts. If private, others must request your permission to view your posts. Most teenagers leave their account public because it can be a hassle to have to approve everyone who wants to follow you. You can also send direct messages - which are always private and viewable to only the recipient.
Instagram is mainly mobile - meaning you must download the app to use most of the features. Once you've made an account in the app, you can access some features via www.instagram.com, but not much. Instagram offers it's own Privacy & Safety Center for parents to read and learn more about protecting their kids. Highly recommended for all parents of middle and high schoolers!
Twitter - www.twitter.com
Twitter is the second most popular public social media service amongst teenagers. Users can post short texts - limited to 140 characters - or pictures called "tweets". This keeps everything brief and light. Users can "follow" other users in order to see their tweets regularly. Twitter is really popular for celebrities to communicate directly with their fans. Your teenager probably "follows" their favorite musicians, actors, and athletes.
Just like Instagram, an account can be either public or private. Twitter can also add a location to your tweets. You can reply to other people's tweets by "tweeting at" their username. Twitter usernames begin with an @ symbol, followed by the name. Mine, for example, is @tednorthrop. There is no way to comment directly on someone else's tweet; you have to post a tweet of your own in response.
There is also a direct messaging system, which allows users to communicate privately, unseen to the public. Usually called DMing (direct messaging), this is a popular way for teenagers to communicate.
Twitter's website is fully functional with features, but most teenagers will only use the mobile app. Twitter also has a safety center, which I encourage all parents to read. Twitter is becoming less popular among teens, for two main reasons. First, it is being increasingly used for marketing. Corporations and organizations can have accounts that can be really aggressive in marketing. Secondly, it is becoming more popular for parents. The last thing any student wants is for their parents to follow them on Twitter. This drives them to other, more private, social media sites.
Facebook - www.facebook.com
Facebook is most likely the most familiar social media site to parents who are reading this. A user can "friend" other users can see the things they post. Facebook features comments and likes. Other users can "like" your post and leave a comment of their own on what you posted.
Facebook also has a direct messaging system, which is private to the public. You can also "like" pages of celebrities, businesses, and other groups. It is very common for a business to do most of their communication through Facebook.
Facebook's popularity is continually decreasing among teenagers. Yep, you guessed it - it's because parents are all on Facebook now. Even if teenagers have a Facebook account, it is rarely used. If you have a Facebook and are friends with your child, that is not sufficient to keep an eye on their online behavior.
Facebook boasts a slew of privacy features. A user can choose for their posts to be viewable to only a portion of their friends. That means a teenager could make a post viewable to everyone but their parents. You can read more about privacy on Facebook on their help page.