Social Media and Teenagers – 15 Apps Every Parent Should Know About

The world of social media is second nature to our teenagers. Their digital identity is one that is very important and highly valued. Whilst this is, at times, hard for those of us of a different generation to accept and understand, the reality is that this is the way of life for our teens.

Education and open communication is the to key navigating your teenager’s use of these types of applications (apps). Banning and censoring is not the answer and only causes more problems that it will ever solve.

At School, in IT classes and through the Pastoral Care curriculum, we continually discuss and teach our students about being cyber safe and how to conduct themselves online in a positive and productive way. As parents, equipping yourself with some knowledge about what is out there and having open discussions about the pros and cons of the digital world we live in is the best way to teach and support them.

There are many resources to help equip yourself with this knowledge and hone your skills in the world of social media. As a first step, the list below is from Commonsense media and briefly discusses the 15 latest social media apps being used by teenagers.

1. Twitter is a microblogging site that allows users to post brief, 140-character messages — called “tweets” — and follow other users’ activities.

Why is it popular?

Teens like using it to share quick tidbits about their lives with friends. It’s also great for keeping up with what’s going on in the world — breaking news, celebrity gossip, etc.

What parents need to know?

? Public tweets are the norm for teens. Although you can choose to keep your tweets private, most teens report having public accounts. Talk to your kids about what they post and how a post can spread far and fast.

? Updates appear immediately. Even though you can remove tweets, your followers can still read what you wrote until it’s gone. This can get kids in trouble if they say something in the heat of the moment.

? It’s a promotional tool for celebs.?Twitter reels teens in with behind-the-scenes access to celebrities’ lives, adding a whole new dimension to celebrity worship. You may want to point out how much marketing strategy goes into the tweets of those they admire.

2.?Instagram is a platform that lets users snap, edit, and share photos and 15-second videos — either publicly or with a network of followers.

Why is it popular?

Instagram unites the most popular features of social media sites: sharing, seeing, and commenting on photos. Instagram also lets you apply fun filters and effects to your photos, making them look high-quality and artistic.

What parents need to know?

? Teens are on the lookout for “Likes.”?Similar to Facebook, teens may measure the “success” of their photos — even their self-worth — by the number of likes or comments they receive. Posting a photo or video can be problematic if teens post it to validate their popularity.

? Public photos are the default.?Photos and videos shared on Instagram are public unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location info can make photos even more visible to communities beyond a teen’s followers if his or her account is public.

? Private messaging is now an option.?Instagram Direct allows users to send “private messages” to up to 15 mutual friends. These pics don’t show up on their public feeds. Although there’s nothing wrong with group chat, kids may be more likely to share inappropriate stuff with their inner circles. Also, strangers can send private messages to users; kids then choose to open the message and view or discard the attached picture.

? The terms of service specify that users should be at least 13 years old.

3.?Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the pictures and videos they send before they disappear.

Why is it popular?
Snapchat’s creators intended the app’s fleeting images to be a way for teens to share fun, light moments without the risk of having them go public. And that’s what most teens use it for: sending goofy or embarrassing photos to one another. Snapchats also seem to send and load much “faster” than email or text.

What parents need to know?

? It’s a myth that Snapchats go away forever.?Data is data: Whenever an image is sent, it never truly goes away. (For example, the person on the receiving end can take a screenshot of the image before it disappears.) Snapchats can even be recovered.

? The seemingly risk-free messaging might encourage users to share pictures containing inappropriate content.

4.?Tumblr is like a cross between a blog and Twitter: It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or “tumblelogs,” that can be seen by anyone online (if made public).

Why is it popular?
Many teens have tumblrs for personal use — sharing photos, videos, musings, and things they find funny with their friends. Tumblelogs with funny memes and gifs often go viral online.

What parents need to know?

? This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes has inappropriate content that is easy to find.

? Privacy can be guarded, but only through an awkward workaround. The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the Internet. Members who desire full privacy have to create a?second?profile, which they’re able to password protect.

? Posts are often copied and shared.?Reblogging on Tumblr is similar to re-tweeting: A post that’s reblogged from one tumblelog then appears on another. Many teens like — and in fact, want — their posts reblogged.

5.?Google+ is Google’s social network, which is now open to teens. It has attempted to improve on Facebook’s friend concept?– using “circles” that give users more control about what they share with whom.

Why is it popular?
Teens aren’t wild about Google+ yet. But many feel that their parents are more accepting of it because they associate it with schoolwork. One popular aspect of Google+ is the addition of real-time video chats in Hangouts (virtual gatherings with approved friends), and some schools may use Google Docs for classroom assignments.

What parents need to know?

? Teens can limit who sees certain posts by using “circles.”?Friends, acquaintances, and the general public can all be placed in different circles. If you’re friends with your kid on Google+, know that you may be in a different “circle” than their friends (and therefore seeing different information).

? Google+ takes teens’ safety seriously.?Google+ created age-appropriate privacy default settings for any users whose registration information shows them to be teens. It also automatically reminds them about who may be seeing their posts (if they’re posting on public or extended circles).

? Data tracking and targeting are concerns.?Google+ activity (what you post and search for and who you connect with) is shared across Google services including Gmail and YouTube. This information is used for targeting ads to the user. Users can’t opt out of this type of sharing across Google services.

6.?Vine is a social media app that lets users post and watch looping six-second video clips. This Twitter-owned service has developed a unique community of people who post videos that are often creative and funny — and sometimes thought-provoking.

Why is it popular?
Videos run the gamut from stop-motion clips of puzzles doing and undoing themselves to six-second skits showing how a teen wakes up on a school day vs a day during summer. Teens usually use Vine to create and share silly videos of themselves and/or their friends and family.

What parents need to know?

? It does have inappropriate videos.?There’s a lot of funny, clever expression on Vine, but much of it isn’t appropriate for kids.

? There are significant privacy concerns.?The videos you post, the accounts you follow, and the comments you make on videos are all public by default. But you?can?adjust your settings to protect your posts; only followers will see them, and you have to approve new followers.

? Parents can be star performers (without knowing).?If your teens film you being goofy or silly, you may want to talk about whether they plan to share it.

7.?Wanelo (Want, Need, Love) combines shopping, fashion blogging, and social networking all in one. It’s very popular among teens, allowing them to discover, share, and buy products they like.

Why is it popular?
Teens keep up with the latest styles by browsing Wanelo’s “trending” feed, which aggregates the items that are most popular across the site. They can also cultivate their own style through the “My Feed” function, which displays content from the users, brands, and stores they follow.

What parents need to know?

? If you like it, you can buy it.?Users can purchase almost anything they see on Wanelo by clicking through to products’ original sites.

? Brand names are prominent.?Upon registering, users are required to follow at least three “stores” and at least three “people”.

8.?Kik Messenger is an app-based alternative to standard texting that kids use for social networking. It’s free to use but has lots of ads.

Why is it popular?
It’s fast and has no message limits, character limits, or fees if you just use the basic features, making it decidedly more fun in many ways than SMS texting.

What parents need to know?

? It’s too easy to “copy all.”?Kik’s ability to link to other Kik-enabled apps within itself is a way to drive “app adoption” (purchases) from its users for developers. The app also encourages new registrants to invite everyone in their phone’s address book to join Kik, since users can only message those who also have the app.

? There’s some stranger danger.?An app named?OinkText, linked to Kik, allows communication with strangers who share their Kik usernames to find people to chat with. There’s also a Kik community blog where users can submit photos of themselves and screenshots of messages (sometimes displaying users’ full names) to contests.

? It uses real names.?Teens’ usernames identify them on Kik, so they shouldn’t use their full real name as their username.

9.?Oovoo?is a free video, voice, and messaging app. Users can have group chats with up to 12 people for free. (The premium version removes ads from the service.)

Why is it popular?
Teens mostly use Oovoo to hang out with friends. Many log on after school and keep it up while doing homework. Oovoo can be great for group studying and it makes it easy for kids to receive “face to face” homework help from classmates.

What parents need to know?

? You can only chat with approved friends.?Users can only communicate with those on their approved “contact list,” which can help ease parents’ safety concerns.

? Kids still prefer in-person communication.?Though apps like Oovoo make it easier than ever to video chat with friends,?research shows that kids still value face-to-face conversations over online ones?– especially when it comes to sensitive topics. Still, they sometimes find it hard to log off when all of their friends are on.

10.?Yik Yak is a free, location-aware, social-networking app that lets users post “anything and everything” anonymously through brief, Twitter-like comments, which are distributed to the geographically nearest 500 people who are also signed in to the app.

Why is it popular?
Kids can find out opinions, secrets, rumors, and more from those logged in their immediate location.

What parents need to know?

? It reveals your location.?By default, exactly where you are is shown unless you toggle location sharing off. Each time you open the app, GPS updates your location.

? So far its use in the US has caused social issues in school – it’s a mixed bag of trouble.

11.? is a social site that lets kids ask questions and answer those posted by other users — sometimes anonymously.

Why is it popular?
Although there are some friendly interactions on — Q&As about favorite foods or crushes, for example — there are inappropriate comments and topics.

What parents need to know?

? Talk to your teens about cyberbullying and how anonymity can encourage unethical behavior.

? Anonymous answers are optional.?Users?can decide whether to allow anonymous posts and can remove their answers from streaming to decrease their profile’s visibility.?If your teens do use the site, they’d be best turning off anonymous answers and keeping themselves out of the live stream.

? Q&As can appear on Facebook.?Syncing with Facebook means that a much wider audience can see those Q&As.

12.?WhatsApp lets users send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message limits or fees.

Why is it popular?
The price is right; for teens who have a hard time keeping within the limits of a standard texting plan, the ability to send unlimited messages for free is a definite bonus.

What parents need to know?

? It’s for users 16 and over.?Lots of younger teens seem to be using the app, but this age minimum has been set by WhatsApp.

? It can be pushy.?After you sign up, it automatically connects you to all the people in your address book who also are?using WhatsApp. Beyond that, the app often encourages you to add friends who haven’t yet signed up.

? Kids may need some limits.?Although unlimited texting may save you cash, capping kids’ communication can help them stay focused on the more important transmissions.

13.?Omegle is a chat site (and app) that puts two strangers together in their choice of a text chat or video chat room.

Why is it popular?
Being anonymous can be very attractive to teens, and Omegle provides a no-fuss opportunity to make connections. Its “interest boxes” also let users filter potential chat partners by shared interests.

What parents need to know?

? This is NOT an app for kids and teens. Users get paired up with strangers.?That’s the whole premise of the app. And there’s no registration required.

14.?Yo. is a bare-bones social app that sends a short text message to friends and family, simply reading “Yo” (and speaking the word aloud). That’s it.

Why is it popular?
This admittedly silly concept has taken off big-time since the app’s release this year. Although it may not seem like much, this single word has the potential to let friends and family know you’re thinking of them and just wanted to say, you know, “Yo.”

What parents need to know?

? It’s relatively harmless — but watch out for hackers.?The app’s simple design and explosive popularity has made it a target for hackers.

? Yo. may be a flash in the pan. Although your kid may be obsessed with sending “yo” greetings to everyone in her address book today, tomorrow could be a different story, as apps like this tend to have a shorter lifespan.

15.?Whisper is a social “confessional” app that allows users to post whatever’s on their minds, paired with an image.

Why is it popular?
With all the emotions running through teens, anonymous outlets give them freedom to share their feelings without fear of judgment.

What parents need to know?

? Whispers are often inappropriate in nature.?Some users post “confessions” that are positive. Content can be dark and reflect insecurity in teenagers.

? Although it’s anonymous to start, it may not stay that way.?The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the “Meet Up” section.

Like many schools, these types of apps are blocked by our security and filtering policies when students log onto our network as standard practice. There are times when use of or information about these apps are relevant to our programs and teaching. In these cases we use school generated “dummy” accounts.

As parents, I encourage you to educate yourself so that when issues occur beyond the school day you have the skills to deal with and support your teenager as they learn to be responsible and safe digital citizens.

In addition, I encourage you to have a look at the following for some advice and guidance and then start discussing with your teenager their use of social media.

by Teresa Deshon, Deputy Principal