Our Teens’ Favorite Platforms

Here’s Where Our Teens Are Spending Their Time: 

What To Know About Our Teens’ Favorite Platforms

Snapchat

What Teens Love

The user interface makes it so easy for teens to snap and share photos. Fun features keep teens engaged from the filters to games, and then Snapstreaks, a running tally of how frequently you communicate with friends, injects an element of friendly competition with its scoreboard.

Since snaps are typically personal exchanges between friends or groups which have formed organically, there’s no public-facing page. Since there’s no displaying of posts or a record of the number of likes, comments and shares, teens don’t have to worry about projecting the right social image. Without this perfection standard, teens can feel more free to be their authentic selves. And because there’s no friend/follower count, there’s zero pressure to amass a large following as a show of popularity

What Parents Should Know

Social status is accrued through Snapstreaks, a tally of how many days you’ve been snapping back and forth with different friends. The longer the duration of the streaks or the person with the highest number of streaks, earns the bragging rights. Teens can feel pressured to keep their streaks going, as you lose your streak if you don’t respond within 24 hours. Parents should make sure that their teen’s account is set to private to avoid exchanges with strangers.

There is also the Discover feature which is essentially a newsfeed. In our review, there was a lot of inappropriate content (specifics included in Our Complete Guide to Snapchat), and we found that a 25-year-old received the same featured stories as a 13-year-old.

Snapchat started as a sexting app, and while it has become mainstream, its core features make it easy to engage in the sharing of illicit information (translation: nude photos and drug deals). For these reasons, it’s easy to understand why Common Sense Media rates it as a 16+.

*Snapchat users can change their settings so that photos and messages stick around for 24 hours instead of disappearing right away, but parents should know that there’s no way to lock this setting. And parents may want to relay to their kids that ‘disappearing’ snaps and messages are actually stored on Snap’s server for 30 days, and anyone can screenshot, any time.

Instagram

What Teens Love

Since users post only the ‘best’ images, teens love that there are fewer, more highly curated posts than on Facebook. Without hyperlinks, the interface is cleaner, plus it’s feels more hip and less commercialized (Facebook is “for old people”). Instagram feels more private because users control exactly what followers can see–no one can post on your profile, and if you’re tagged in an embarrassing photo, it’s buried in the interface, giving you the chance to delete before anyone else can see it on your profile.

Another key feature of Instagram is that there’s no pressure for social reciprocity. In accepting your follow request, I’m not obliged to follow you back which means that I won’t see your posts in my Instafeed.  By comparison, when you accept a Friend request on Facebook, you are automatically connected which means I will see your posts unless I actively change the settings.

What Parents Should Know

Teens can feel pressured to present the right image and can spend hours taking selfies and trying to perfect photos with advanced editing tools. When they don’t get the hoped for number of likes, they can feel rejected which can be internalized and lead to body image issues. Because amassing a large following is proof of popularity, teens often begin communicating with people they don’t know.

Surprising to many parents is the degree of mature content found on Instagram (specifics included in Our Complete Guide to Instagram). It can be very difficult to insulate your teens, especially if they follow celebrities. Also, because there is no way to contain account creation, it’s easy for teens to set up fake accounts. These fake instagram accounts, known as FINSTAs, can serve multiple purposes. While some teens use them for more personalized exchanges with a smaller group of friends, they also are reportedly used for bullying anonymously.

Our Family Agreement can help you define for your teens the terms of use for social media.

Youtube

What Teens Love

Not only is YouTube’s content highly entertaining, but it has wide-ranging appeal, from how to code to how to apply makeup. Teens turn to YouTube when seeking instruction and love that they can learn almost anything. Not only is it the most popular of the social platforms, but teens are opting for YouTube over their cable provider, in favor of YouTube stars who they find more relatable than Hollywood celebs.

What Parents Should Know

While it is possible to filter content, it’s impossible to filter it all. Many recent scandals have uncovered the ineffectiveness of YouTube’s algorithms, prompting the company to hire a team of 10,000 human moderators to review content. However, with 5 billion videos hosted on its platform and 300 additional hours of video uploaded every minute, it’s an insurmountable task. YouTube does have a  ‘Restricted Mode’ setting, but it’s easily turned off.* Parents who are seeking a better solution, should consider Mobicip for filtering and Bark if their child is an active poster of videos (more information can be found in Our Guides).

Heard It From A Friend remains active in its commitment to advocate for the technology we need and have registered our concerns and suggested improvements with YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki.  

Facebook

What Teens Love

Actually, teens are ditching Facebook in large numbers. It’s not just the numerous privacy breaches and infiltration from foreign adversaries, but also the ads and the clutter. The only reason teens still have a Facebook account is that it’s still the best source for getting intel on someone new, and it has proven useful in organizing social movements such as March for Our Lives.

What Parents Should Know

More bullying occurs on Facebook than on any other platform. This can likely be attributed to the fact that anyone who has ‘friended’  your teen can post whatever they want on your teen’s profile. Facebook makes it easy to like or comment on negative posts, allowing multiple children to jump on the bullying bandwagon.

Groups, however, can be a useful feature, especially as they typically form around affinity groups and interests.  The Marketplace also facilitates buying and selling within these online communities.

The Major Positives and Negatives

  1. Where Teens Are Spending Their Time – Monica Anderson, Jinjin Jiang, Pew Research Center
  2. The Positives and Negatives of Major Platforms – The Economist

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