Thursday, 21 April 2016

Wise up on Social Media Sites Your Teen Uses

Most teens love social media. And why shouldn't they? Social media is fun, social and provides a platform for self expression. Although social media as a platform is fairly new, teens today don't remember a world without it.

Following the recent release of the "Taking Stock with Teens" study by Piper Jaffray, an investment firm, Tech Age Kids investigates the top 4 social media sites used by teens today. We encourage parents and carers to wise up on modern tech, to have meaningful and positive conversations with their teens.

Like with everything there is an opportunity to use a tool for good or to hurt someone. That's not the tool's fault, but the user and their set of values. Of course if you are on the receiving end of bad social media content it can be very distressing. We'll be writing more about that soon.

**Coming Soon** "Is Your Teen ready for Social Media?" Subscribe to read this post.

The Jaffray research showed Snapchat (28%) as the most popular social media platform among teens. It was closely followed by Instagram (27%) and Twitter (18%). Just a year ago only 13% of teens sided with Snapchat. So what is Snapchat and why do teens love it so much?


Snapchat only came into existence in 2011 as a photo and video sharing platform with a twist.

Basically you take a picture (perhaps a selfie) and then send it to a friend or a group of friends on your list. Once your friend receives your picture they have between 1 and 10 seconds to view it and then it disappears - forever (that is if no-one takes a screenshot or another picture of it).

To some parents, this may seem a terrible waste of time and effort, but to a teen it solves a big problem. Snapchat allows you to have fun, be yourself with playful images and videos without the worry of a permanent scar on your digital footprint.

The TechBoomers have a free course on Snapchat, detailing all the ins and outs of the mobile app. We recommend you read it, if you want more information.

Snapchat is a mobile app available on iOS and Andriod devices.

What Parents Should Know about Snapchat

Snapchat works with law enforcement and online safety agencies to ensure the best use of their application. They have produced a parent guide with ConnectSafely which you can download.

Snapchat has an age restriction of 13 + and provide community guidelines on Snapping. Parents can play a big role in ensuring Snapchat is fun and playful and used with respect of others privacy.

Snapchat's privacy settings allows you to make your Snaps only available to your friends. Talk to your teens about who they send Snaps too. You can also disable geo-location of Snaps.

Snapchat have some newly added features, My Story and Live Story. My Story allows the user to create a story with a number of photos and videos which is available to view for 24 hours, after that it is deleted. Live Story allows a user to contribute to a story hosted by an event, such as a music concert or a football game. You can also Discover Live Stories in a geographical area.

Tech Age Kids Verdict

I've not used Snapchat before writing this article, and unfortunately my teen doesn't use it either. Having downloaded it and used it a bit, I can understand the attraction. It is fast paced, and whimsical. A real platform for self expression. I created a Story of my doggie, Ruby!

As a parent I would talk to my teen about what are appropriate Snaps. We think it is very important to have open and balanced discussions on the use of social media in general.  This will be applicable for other platforms too.

Snapchat can be a really fun and social app for your teen to use with their friends.


Instagram is a photo and video sharing site usually showing off beautifully curated images to inspire and allow expression.

In many ways Snapchat and Instagram are very similar. It is a social media platform, where you share photos and videos you have taken. The biggest difference is, Instagram is permanent.

Instagram has been adopted more widely by businesses and adults compared to Snapchat, but it's also been around for a little while longer - first released in 2010.

Check out TechBoomers' free course on Instagram, if you want more information.

Instagram is a free app available on iOS, Andriod and Windows Mobile.

What Parents Should Know about Instagram

Instagram have published guidelines for parents. They state, Instagram is intended for ages 13 and up.

Instagram is a brilliant application for a creative teen. The app has a built in photo and video editor to make your own creations. 

Instagram uses hastags (#) to tag media. This is used to find others who have used the same hashtag.

Tech Age Kids Verdict

I have used Instagram a lot, for both personal and business use. I really like it, and think it is great for creative people who feel the need to share their creativity with others. However, during my use, I have also come across a lot of inappropriate media on the platform. Sure you can block and report, but it still doesn't take away the image you've seen.

Instagram allows the user to be private or public and we would recommend young teens to start using the platform as a private user. They then have control over who can see their media. Unfortunately this doesn't affect the media they can access. As a user of Instagram you can search and find any public user, and there are millions.


We're now going back a decade, when Twitter was launched in 2006.  It's a global social broadcast network, which allows the user to convey their message in 140 characters called tweets. You can add pictures and links to videos and content outside the platform.

Twitter is the place you go for breaking news and following specific interests. The beauty of Twitter is the fact you can have access to anyone with a Twitter account. If your teen wanted to send a direct message to their favourite band, chances are they can achieve this through Twitter.

Twitter is available on desktop and as an app for mobile devices.

What Parents Should Know about Twitter

The biggest concern for parents about Twitter is, your teen's posts are not private. Whatever you say on Twitter can be viewed by anyone. Read Twitter's guideline for families.

Twitter is a great tool for "listening" - learning other's opinions; also for asking questions. My teen have used it quite effectively to get answers from experienced developers to questions he had on projects. 

Twitter's limited character space, can make communication difficult and the pace at which information move along can be overwhelming.

Lists are a great way to keep track of people you would like to follow and block out the endless noise of Twitter. The hashtag, like in Instagram is also a powerful tool to find information and other people with similar interests on Twitter.
Use TechBoomers' free course to learn how to use Twitter.
Help your teen to choose a Twitter username that can follow them into adulthood as it is very likely to be a tool they will use to find a job or share information in future.

Tech Age Kids Verdict

I love Twitter and use it every day, as a learning tool and to keep in touch with my interest groups.

When it comes to Twitter, take time to talk to your teen about the sorts of information they consume online and the content they create. Do they know who is sharing their content? Think carefully how your tweets may be interpreted. Twitter takes accusations and malicious content seriously and there have been prosecutions due to hasty tweets.

I would recommend Twitter for teens who are able to see how their interactions on Twitter is part of a broader context and consider everyone who can view their content.


Facebook is the grandfather (created in 2004) of social media sites.  It's an online community set up to facilitate people finding and forming friendships with each other through an exchange of different content.  Facebook is one of the biggest social networks because of how much you can do with it.

A couple of years ago it was big news showing teens leaving Facebook in droves, because their parents use it.

Facebook Messenger is far more popular among teens, and provide instant chat and media sharing much like WhatsApp. However you do require a Facebook account to use Messenger.

Facebook is available on desktop and as a mobile app on iOS, Andriod and Windows Mobile.

What Parents Should Know about Facebook

Facebook has come a long way, providing adequate privacy to it's users. You have considerable control over who can see you and what you're posting.

Facebook has a brilliant guide to Help your Teen Play it Safe, packed with great questions for conversation starters.

Facebook among teens, can be good and bad. I've heard parents say, if you want Facebook, I have to be your friend (guilty as charged). Those same friends later discovered their teen have two Facebook accounts. 

My teen got Facebook the day he turned 13 (he felt entitled to have it) and a week later deleted his account. He didn't like the idea of sharing his life online. Now I know, he is definitely in the minority among teens, but it does bring up an interesting point. Why does your teen want to use Facebook and will their use of it be for their benefit or detriment?

Tech Age Kids Verdict

As a family we use Facebook to keep in touch with our friends and family dotted all over the world. It helps us feel connected to the lives of family, who's too far to visit for a weekend. For this reason, I would recommend Facebook. There isn't another social tool that provides this level on connection.

Facebook is great for sharing, something teens love to do. We recommend keeping communication open and sharing tips and tricks of Facebook use with your teen. Facebook is probably the one social media platform parents are most familiar with, which helps to ask good questions about their use.

Social media integral to our digital future and rather than being afraid its impact on our children, let's wise up and help them engage in a meaningful, respectful and thoughtful manner.

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