Teens are constantly using the virtual world to communicate with one another through social networking sites. According to the Pew Research Center the vast majority of teens (71%) aren't sticking to one site, but are experimenting and using multiple ones. With more and more youth using these sites, it’s important for parents to stay well informed about the social media platforms they use and the pros and cons of each. Below you will find the top five social networking platforms used by today's teens.
# 1 – Facebook
While there have been reports that Facebook’s popularity with teens is beginning to fade, surveys show that it’s still the most popular site. Approximately 71% of American teens ages 13-17 report using Facebook.
For now, Facebook is one of the most popular and user-friendly social networking sites. Creating a profile is super easy. The site helps members identify people they may know based on their age, geographical location, school, etc. For teens, Facebook provides a place to virtually hangout and connect with friends. There are also places to connect with people who share common interests. One of the great things about Facebook is the network’s ability to close the geographical distance between friends and family.
From a teen’s perspective, one of the cons is that too many parents and adults are on Facebook. So the novelty of having your own virtual space is disappearing. Plus, many teens don’t like having parents, grandparents and other adults in their business. Bottom line - teens like privacy and when others invade their space, they leave. With adults using Facebook as their own social networking tool, many teens are venturing off to find another more secluded space.
Another con of Facebook is what is posted will be seen by others. Even if privacy settings are secure, there is no guarantee accounts won’t be hacked, or information won’t be shared by others who have access to view the information. When something is uploaded onto Facebook - it’s public. There are numerous stories of people’s photos being downloaded and misused. When youth post pictures of themselves making poor decisions, or rant in the comment section, it can come back to haunt them in the future. Plus more and more college representatives and potential employers scour the internet for information. Teens have to be vigilant about exercising good judgment about what they share not only on Facebook, but on other sites as well.
#2 - Instagram
With over 400 million users Instagram has exploded into a massive social media network. Not only are adults taking to the site, but so are teens. Instagram is a social networking app designed to share photos and videos. Like Facebook and Twitter, people create an account which displays a profile and has a news feed. When a photo or video is posted, it will be displayed on the user’s profile. Other members who follow the user will be able to view the post and the user will be able to see the posts from members who follow them. Instagram's popularity is skyrocketing with approximately 52% of American teens ages 13-17 reporting using the site.
Instagram is fun, easy to browse and visually attractive. It also has good privacy settings. This helps ensure people who don’t follow users can’t access their photos without permission. People like and make comments on the photos and that can boost a user's confidence. Plus, Instagram is versatile and allows users to share photos and videos on other social networking sites.
Users should make sure that the settings are private. The privacy settings are very important on the app. If privacy settings are not secure, photos and videos will appear in Instagram’s public feed.
#3 - Snapchat
Snapchat is a photo and video sharing site that allows users to send photo messages that are only intended to be seen by the recipient for a few seconds. Snapchat's disappearing messages makes the site a hit with teens. According to Pew Research Center 11% of teens use Snapchat.
Snapchat is snapshot of life via text messaging, photos or videos. Lots of teens use it to take selfies, show how they feel, or share other information they deem private and important. On Snapchat, when a teen shares a photo or video, they are sharing a moment with chosen friends, and that makes it a more personal experience.
Teens may think the pictures they post on Snapchat will evaporate into thin air, but that could be farther from the truth. Recipients can easily take a screenshot of the image before is disappears. For parent’s, it’s also important to know that Snapchat has been used by some teens as a tool to sext. Unfortunately some teens trust the app’s disappearing feature and make poor decisions about what they are posting. However, those lapse of judgment pictures or videos can resurface in the future
# 4 - Twitter
Twitter is a social network that is short and to the point. Users are only allowed to tweet up to 140 characters. People follow one another on Twitter based on interest and social connections. Twitter comes in at number 4 (6% of teens report using) on teens most used sites.
Operating in real time, Twitter users tweet out short bursts of information. People also tweet about their opinions on various topics. It’s easy to link others to websites, photos, or blogs along with a short comment. Twitter users narrow down comments by using a hashtag (#) attached to a keyword (#teens). The # allows users to search Twitter for comments on specific topics. Plus, it’s a great way to quickly spread the word about events.
There are a lot of people tweeting and it can become overwhelming. Teens can follow friends, bands, actors/actresses, and anyone else that tweets. Followers and users can send private messages to one another, so it can be used as a platform for direct conversations. Twitter is a fast way to get information out. It’s also a fast way to for teens to say something they shouldn’t. It only takes a few seconds to tweet something that can come back to bite the sender.
Google+ is a social networking platform, “plus”so much more for teens to use. Approximately 5% of teens use Google+ and that number is expected to increase.
Google+ is a social networking platform that brings all of Google’s services together for users to enjoy. Google+ features the ability to post photos and status updates to communities. Communities allow users to engage in ongoing conversations about particular topics of interest. The program also allows users to group their relationships with others in circles. One really neat feature of Google+ is hangouts. Hangouts is a free video chat service that can call up to 10 people through the Google+ or a mobile app.
Google+ does offer a Teen Safety Guide to help teens navigate safely on the sites. The company even offers a Google+ for teens, which provides more guidance and conservative defaults. Google+ is a multi-layered social networking system that makes it a one stop shop when it comes to social media and networking.
As with all social networking, privacy settings need to be secure. When a teen shares information with his/her circle it can be re-shared to someone else’s circle. An exception is that Google does allow options to limit re-sharing which is a “+”. However, like many other sites, people can take screen shots of the content.
And there you have it, the top five social networking sites used by today's teens. As you can see, teens bounce back and forth between apps and sites. Their tastes are diverse and unique to their interests. From pictures, to videos, from tweets to chats, teens are open to exploring and trying new things online. As parents, it’s important to keep up with trends and know the pros and cons of the social networking sites teens currently use.
Pew Research Center’s report, “Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015: