YouTube’s Growing Influence on Teens

I want you to think back to when you were a teen. What celebrities were most influential on your life?

My guess is that it would be an actor/actress from your favorite TV show or movie, a player on your favorite sports team or a musician in a band. Personally I was a huge fan of Sylvester Stallone and Dennis Rodman. Let me clarify that I was a fan of pre-freak-show Rodman when he was with the Detroit Pistons and they won back-to-back championships.

Looking back, my infatuation with these celebrities was wrapped up in the character they rockyplayed or the effort they displayed and less about who they were. I idolized Sylvester Stallone’s character Rocky. I was drawn in by the dedication, determination and will he displayed. I mirrored my style of play on the basketball court after Rodman’s. Diving for loose balls and recklessly going up for rebounds against bigger guys. That was the sum of what I knew of them, yet they were powerfully influential on my life.

Teens today want more. For someone to have influence on them they want to know their story, know they have things in common and feel that that person, in-part, represents their own aspirations in life. I believe this is true for two reasons.

One, teens have greater access to information than I did when I was a teen. They have the ability like never before to find out more about a celebrity beyond what they see on stage or the big screen. Finding out more can make the teen more or less interested in that person. If I would have known some things about Rodman back when I was a teen I may not have held him in such high regard.

Two, teens today have a strong desire for authenticity and affinity. To truly know someone else and feel connected to others. If they learn that they have similar interests and passions of a celebrity they like, the more they will feel connected to that  person. And ultimately that celebrity will begin to be influential on them.

With today’s teens desires to connect with others and the rise of the internet, it comes as no surprise then that YouTube personalities (A person or group that gains widespread recognition on the internet and beyond for videos they post on YouTube) are rising in the ranks of celebrities who are influential to teens today.

youtube-stars-shine-brightestIf you are not familiar with YouTube channels, here is a quick snapshot. Individuals and or groups create videos of varying lengths (sometimes multiple videos each day) on all sorts of topics from their daily life, dance, music, beauty/fashion tips, complete randomness,  or their own mini-shows. My kids personally love Kid Snippets videos where kids do the voice-overs for adults acting out situations. They are pretty funny. Some channels build a solid following with millions of subscribers and views on their videos.

Personally I have stumbled upon entertaining channels myself and before I knew it I had viewed a dozen videos by the same creator. I even found myself checking back for new content days later. Teens are digital natives and big users of YouTube and they are doing the same thing. For instance, a recent survey by Variety magazine “found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube celebrities,” not your traditional movie actors or actresses.

I asked Leo, a teen from southern California, to give me his thoughts on YouTube Celebrities being influential on teens today. Here are his thoughts:

In my opinion, I believe that they are influential and popular because they are associated with comedy, youth and consistency. YouTube stars tend to post content frequently, therefore gaining a much greater audience than say a mainstream actor who only comes out in a movie once or twice a year.

Most of the mainstream media actors do not have the interaction that the YouTube stars have due to the fact that they have no form of communication with their fans other than their social media. Even then they’re very limited towards what they can say. On the other hand, YouTube stars have the option of interacting with their audience through the form of a video which they can post at any time they wish. They have the liberty of voicing their opinion on their channel.

If you compare Felix Kjellberg (a Swedish video game commentator on YouTube known as PewDiePie) to Jennifer Lawrence, Felix posts content every single day. About two videos and each ranging about 7-10 minutes long. That has led to his HUGE success now with over 31 Million subscribers. Therefore he has a better interaction with his fan base community. Jennifer Lawrence on the other hand comes out in a hit movie every couple of months for about 2 hours. This amount of content and interaction plays big role because unlike Jennifer, Felix has public exposure everyday which keeps him very relevant in the media. What big celebrities struggle with is the fact that they cannot stay very relevant in the media. Right after a big movie or TV show is released, they just gradually lose the interests of the public.

If you still do not think teens are being influenced by YouTube stars, look at the fact the bethany-mota-at-teen-choice-awards-2014-in-los-angeles_21Teen Choice awards now have a category to recognize Web Stars. Bethany Mota and Tyler Oakley took home the 2014 honors for Web Star Female and Male by the way. Side Note: Bethany is also on the current season of Dancing with the Stars. Which leads to a whole other conversation around brands using YouTube Celebrities to influence teens for their brand. We will save that for another time.

Youth Worker and Parent Tips:

  • Learn who some of the popular YouTube celebrities are. Common Sense Media has an article titled 10 YouTube Stars Your Kids Love that i recommend you start with.
  • Use YouTube to create a common connection with your teen(s). Find a YouTube channel that you and your teen(s) both enjoy and is appropriate for their age and watch the videos together. Like I mentioned earlier my kids, who are not teens yet, enjoy Kid Snippets and we occasionally watch them together.
  • Have a discussion with your teen(s) about their favorite YouTube channels, why they like those channels and what is it about the videos that connects with them. You might learn something about your teen that you did not know or identify opportunities for you to connect better with them.

Teens, Fitting Rooms and Social Media

Why do teens act differently on social media than they do in real life? I bet that is a question many parents wish they could answer.

While attending a recent teen culture workshop facilitated by Walt Mueller, president of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding, he made a great analogy. He stated that social media is an identity fitting room for teens. It allows them to fabricate themselves and test out different persona’s as they search to figure out who they are.

Using the currency of social media (Likes, Favorites, Re-blogs, Re-tweets etc.) they can obtain quick feedback on the identity they are trying to create. If they get a lot of likes, they may continue down that path. Too few likes they may re-adjust the identity they are putting out in the social media world for others to see.

tiinkkWhat was fascinating about this analogy is just the day before I was reading about a new app called Tiinkk. This app allows you to crowdsource opinions from others related to what outfits you should wear to what you should buy.

Here is how it works. A teen goes shopping for a new outfit. They try on several different shirts and take selfie’s (of course) wearing each one in the fitting room. They post the pictures to the Tiinkk app and set a timer in the app. Other users can view the pictures of the teen in the various shirts and vote for which one they think the user should purchase. After the timer has expired the teen can see the opinions of the other users and use that feedback to make their purchase.

It truly is an example of teens using social media as their identity fitting room.

Popular Teen App Spotlight: Ask.fm

If you work with or have teens and have not heard about the popular app Ask.fm you need to be aware of this potentially dangerous new app.

The Youth Culture Report (A great resource for youth workers) has posted an article I wrote about Ask.fm and what you need to know. You can check out the article Here.

Popular Teen App Spotlight: Ask.fm

(I recently wrote this article for The Youth Culture Report on Ask.fm. I wanted to re-post it here for those that missed it)

In elementary school I remember getting tapped on the shoulder and handed a note. The note had my name on it and had been passed anonymously from someone in the room. Opening it up it read something like this, “Do you like A) Christina, B) Sally or C) Jen?” There would be a note to circle who I liked and then to send the note back.

As I moved into middle and high school, the same style of anonymous questions came continued. But now they were often being asked by a peer who had been sent on a secret mission to figure out who I liked for their friend.

I remember two distinct feelings during these situations. First I would usually blush, get embarrassed and a little giddy inside thinking that someone may like me more than just a friend. My second feeling was that of uncertainty and fear. “What if I circled a name and it was not the person who sent the note? Would they be upset? Would they tell the person whose name I circled that I liked them?” A similar mental through played out in middle school and high school as well.

These experiences, although somewhat anxiety ridden, felt more like a childish game than anything else.

Times have changed since I was young. With access to technology and social networking sites, these types of encounters are more secretive (as far as who is asking the questions) and more public (who can see the questions and answers) through apps and websites.

ask 3A few years back Formspring was all over the news as a website teens were using to ask each other anonymous questions. It quickly got on the radar of all parents and youth workers because of the harassment that was occurring on the site.

Now a new app called Ask.fm is gaining popularity with teens with the same results.

Ask.fm is a question platform site and app that is highly integrated with Social Media where users can pose questions anonymously to other users through the site or on other social networks. Apps like this can be great fun with questions like, “What movies have you seen lately?” or “What did you do this summer?”

ask 2But when the site is abused it can lead to intentional harm and embarrassment to others. Based off of what I am hearing from teens, incidents of bullying, harassing and creating embarrassment for others is widespread.

It is also important to note that there are not many privacy settings on Ask.fm. Meaning anyone can see what questions are being posed and how they are being answered. Even if you are not a user of the site.

Parent and Youth Worker Tips:

  • Engage your teen in a conversation about what sites they are using and how they and other teens use them. Ask them if they have used Ask.fm and what type of questions they see their peers asking and answering.
  • Work with your teen to set up guidelines for the behavior online. Focus on what they will do if they encounter a situation that upsets them or makes them feel uncomfortable. Talk about what respecting others looks like online and what you expect from them. It is important to note that engaging your teen in coming up with these guideline will empower them to take ownership of their behavior and consequences. Every teen is different and you need to set guidelines based on your teen.
  • Discuss what the consequences would be if they violate your agreement. Teens feel that if they alert an adult to something that occurs online, even if they did not do it, they will have their internet or technology privileges taken away. And that is the last thing they want. Be clear that reporting something to you will not get them in trouble.

Please share this with your co-workers, fellow parents and teachers. As we begin the school year I see the potential for drama created by this app to spill over into our schools and after school programs.

Want More? Sarah Brooks wrote a GREAT article last week that tackles Ask.fm from a spiritual/religious viewpoint. Check it out Here.

What Teens are Doing on Instagram

By far the hottest smartphone app for teens in 2012 was Instagram. It was the one trend that no matter what group of teens I was speaking with, they all mentioned it as being very popular with teens.  And with the number of teens owning smartphones up from 23% in 2011 to 37% in 2012, this app remains popular with teens well into 2013 and shows no signs of slowing down.

instagramHere is a quick synopsis of Instagram in case you are unfamiliar with this app. It is an app for your smartphone that enables you to edit pictures using various filters and effects. This allows you to make your everyday pictures look like you are a seasoned photographer. And of course Instagram allows you to easily share your pictures with friends via Facebook and Twitter. The app also allows you to “follow” others so that you always receive the latest pictures of what your friends are having for lunch. Just to put the popularity of this app in perspective, there are roughly 40 million pictures uploaded to the Instagram app each day.

When I ask teens why they like Instagram, they share various reasons related to personal self-expression. It allows them to share their life through pictures in a creative and sometimes artistic way.

With Instagram being so popular with teens, I have been paying more attention to it. I have been asking teens questions related to the app and how they use it and I have been using it myself to become more familiar with the app and it’s functions.

I think Instagram is a great app for adults and teens. It can bring out a creative side in almost anyone, which I think is a character trait lacking in today’s teens. It also allows teens to share unique experiences and opportunities they have had with their peers.

Recently at a large Teen Leadership conference I was helping manage, we created a hashtag for the conference. I was blown away when we had over 4,000 pictures tagged with the conference hashtag in just three days. The majority of the pictures showed teens participating in community service events, college tours and exploring historical sites. I thought this was very powerful. They were sharing these experiences with their peers who were not able to attend the event. When discussing this with one of the teens, he reminded me that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

But I have noticed several trends related to Instagram that are concerning.

Age recuirement. One trend I have seen is common on many social networking sites. Users who are under the required age creating an account. The terms of Instagram state you must be 13 years old to use the services, but I have some across many accounts associated with youth under that age.

Public vs. Private. Instagram preferences, like most social media networks, are set to public but provide the option for the user to make their content private. If your Instagram account is set to private that means a user must ask to follow you before they can view your pictures. I am discovering that many teens do not make the selection to keep their account private. Because it is public, any Instagram user can view their pictures.

Creepy. Instagram has a feature that allows you to explore others content. This will generate a display showing pictures of various users that can be refreshed to show more photos. In viewing this option I have seen pictures of teens pop up in this display. What disturbs me the most is some of the pictures show teens in revealing outfits. I was showing this to my wife the other day and telling her how I have seen some of these users, who are teens, have upwards of 25K to 75K followers. What this tells me is either this teen is a celebrity that I don’t know about. Or there are a lot of Instagram users who are stumbling onto their pictures and then following them so that they continue to see more pictures of that teen in revealing outfits. Either way, it is disturbing to me that a teen of 15 or 16 are posting these types of pictures for all to see.

“Likes.” In a recent blog by Sarah Brooks, she talks about how teens are wrapped up in the number of “Likes” or “Followers” they have on sites like Instagram. For some teens, they may use this as a way to gage their popularity or self-worth. If you have not already read her post I encourage you to check it out here.

I started asking teens if they saw their peers trying to gain more “likes” and what they felt it meant. Here is what I learned.

20130429-114007.jpg“I see this all the time. I think it has turned into a type of competition and so they have the bragging rights of how many followers they have or how many likes they get on a picture.”

“I believe that it’s all an “ego” thing, also if you have more followers people think your Important in some way.”

“I have seen (the hashtag) #likeforlike so people who search it can like the pictures and have one of theirs liked too.” I checked this out in the explore feature on Instagram and found 7,207,689 pictures tagged #LikeforLike, many of them were of teens. The picture to the left is an example of what I found when I searched the hashtag #LikeforLike.

When discussing the popular hashtag #40morelikes one teen shared, “it is a way to get likes and followers. There is an app called TagforLikes that many people use to get a lot of likes on their pictures.” I checked this out and indeedinstagram and teens there were several apps that a user could download that would help you attain more “Likes” on your pictures. What it does is allow you to easily tag your picture with the most popular hashtags on Instagram, such as #food or #girl. Then when someone searches for one of those hashtags, your picture is displayed for them to view. The picture to the right is an example.

One reviewer of the app TagsforLikes mentioned gaining over 20 new likes in a matter of seconds using the app. Note these are not more likes from your friends but from random users.

If you are like me, all of this probably feels a little overwhelming. Maybe you are even thinking about taking social media privileges away from your teen. I don’t have all the answers but here are a few ideas to help guide you.

Tips for youth workers and parents:

  • Be aware. Half of the battle is knowing that these trends are out there and teens are engaging in them. My hope is that my blog is useful in provideing you with some current and relevat information regardint teens and teen trends. But you can ask teens yourself too. I am always surprised how much teens are willing to share. If you are a youth worker make sure you are asking teens about new trends, how they use new apps or what certain hashtags mean. Sarah Brooks is a great example of engaging the youth she is working with in conversation and being aware of what is going on. Parents, my hope is your teen is connected to a  youth group. If so, ask the youth worker(s) what are some of the trends you need to be aware of. And youth workers help out the parents. Host a workshop, write a monthly newsletter, create a system to text parents regularly about new trends you are seeing that you think they should be aware of.
  • Talk to your teen(s) about the importance of privacy settings on social network sites like Instagram. According to Pew Internet, only “39% of parents of teen users of social networks have helped their child set up privacy settings for a social networking site.” Youth workers here is another way you can help out. Host a social network session for your teens where you teach them about the privacy settings and why it is important that they use them properly.
  • Give them a “Like.” Not on a social media account but in real life. Every day. And often. Make sure they know they are liked, heck make sure they know they are loved and that someone cares about them. In the little things and big things. Compliment their outfit, their positive attitude, a character trait they displayed, just plan tell them they are awesome!

Are Teens Leaving Facebook?

Did you see the recent Time Magazine article,”Is Facebook Losing Its Cool? Some Teens Think So.” It is another in the ongoing conversation about which Social Networks are getting more attention from teens. There is no concrete scientific study (at least not that I know of) saying that teens are fleeing Facebook like a flock of birds flying south for the winter. But if they are it should not be a surprise to us.

Why you ask? First, think about when you were a teen. Did you like hanging out with your facebookparents, siblings, uncles and grandparents or would you have rather been hanging out with your friends? That’s easy, you would have rather been with your friends. The same concept applies in the world of Social Media.

When teens first signed up for Facebook, they were doing so because their friends were on it and not their family members. Fast forward a few years and with Facebook’s growth, now their family members are on Facebook too. Some teens may choose to leave or limit their Facebook use based on this. Like the one teen stated in the Time Magazine article, “All your relatives are constantly commenting on your stuff. I appreciate the gesture and wanting to keep up with my life, but it’s kind of annoying.”

The second reason it should come as no surprise that teens may be leaving Facebook is because teens are early adopters. What I mean by this is when something new comes out, a new TV Show, a new piece of technology a new type of music. Teens are quicker than their adult counterparts to check it out. They don’t sit back and ask a bunch of question and perform a detailed analysis before they try something. Because they are early adopters, they are likely to try something new early and when everyone else begins to claim that thing is popular, teens are already moving onto the next great new thing.

This is why companies like Facebook are constantly making changes. They are trying to keep it fresh and new enough to keep teens and early adopters engaged and interested.

Third, Teens are at a stage in life where they are beginning to try to separate themselves, stand out and not blend in, figure out who they are as an individual. If the word on the street is everyone is on Facebook, then being on Facebook is not setting themselves apart from others. It is blending in when they want to stand out. This is not to say they won’t still have a Facebook account, but they will be looking for a way to stand out on Facebook or find another avenue to set themselves apart from the crowd.

Lastly there is more Social Networks available now. Five years ago there were only a handful of Social Networking options. Today it seems there is a new one in the App Store every month.

Social-Media-IconsTeens have choices, and what they have decided to do is use different social networks for different types of activities. In talking with teens I hear them say they use Facebook for connecting with family and group work for school. They love Instagram because they can share pictures about what is happening in their life and things that interest them. They like tumblr because it is like an online Diary where they can share pictures and videos that inspire them or reflect how they are feeling on a given day.

Companies are paying attention and trying to combined the best features of the different social networks into one. Case in point is Facebook’s accusation of Instagram and the development of a new Social Networks like Snapchat and Pheed. (Read more about Pheed here)

What does this mean for parents and youth workers?

  • Pay attention. Once you think you know about all the social networks your teens are on, they are probably checking out 2 more. Stay in the know by following sites like Mashable on Facebook or twitter. Or just navigate to the site and read the articles. When something new in the area of social media comes on the scene they are one of the first to report on it. If you read about a new Social Network or App, ask your teen if they have heard of it. If they have, ask them about it. Ask them to show you how it works or why they think it is cooler than other Social Network.
  • Pay Attention Continued. Periodically check out what is on the Top Charts of the app store. This will give you a basic idea of what is currently popular. And check your computers browser history to see if the new Social Network site pops up as a recent site visited. This will tell you if your teenager has visited the site.
  • If you work with teens understand what your teens use each Social Network for. This will help you decide what platform to use if trying to engage with teens via social media. Better yet, include them in the process of creating a social media outreach strategy for your group/organization. Teens love to feel like they are teaching someone older than them something.
  • If you are a parent, don’t like EVERY comment your teen makes on Facebook. And definitely do not scold them in the comments section. You can observe from a distance on social networks so they don’t feel you are watching their every move.

What Social Networks are your teens using?

Straight From Teens: What’s Popular

From time to time I dedicate a post to share what I am hearing from Teens. What they say is popular, possible new teen trends developing or just fun stuff related to teens. Here is the latest installment, enjoy.

pheedA new Social Network has come on the scene.  It is called Pheed and seems to take many of the our favorite aspects of other Social Networks (Facebook, twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc) and combines them into one. I saw several articles stating that this new Social Networking app is VERY popular with teens. Check out this one from Fast Company titled Tweeting Teens Help Propel Pheed to #1 Social App. But when I started talking to teens, I only found one who actually had heard of the app. I don’t think this has gained much popularity yet but it looks like it could have some potential.

Several Apps have popped on the scene lately that allow you to “connect” with Social Media friends that like you more than a friend. One is called “Bang with Friends,” which according to its tag line let’s you “Anonymously find friends who are down for the night.” The other is called Tinder and it let’s you identify Facebook/Twitter friends you “Like” and if they say they “Like” you as well, it will connect you. Their Tag line is “A Fun Way To Break the Ice.” Here is a good article from Johnathan McKee about Bang with Friends.  I will be honest, I have not heard teens talking about these apps. But as they are recently gaining in popularity they probably already know about them. Which means we as Youth workers and parents need to be aware of them as well.

If you have not heard or seen by now, the Harlem Shake is VERY popular. If you have no clue what I am talking about check out my recent blog post Teens are Getting their Shake on.

Popular music with teens today includes the following artists: Maroon 5, Miguel, Chris Brown, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Bruno Mars, Lupe Fiasco and Rihanna.  Some stand outs are Sweet Nothing by Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch and Thrift Shop by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (the Music Video has over 143 Million views on YouTube). I was going to post some links to their videos on YouTube, but after viewing a couple I decided against it based on the content in some of the videos. What I recommend is heading over to iTunes, search for the artist and then listen to the previews of their more recent and popular songs.

What Fun Apps are Teens Playing with on their Smartphones?

Do you want to know what Movies are popular with Teens? If so don’t watch the Oscars. I asked teens about the movies up for Oscars, turns out most had never heard of nor seen any of them. For better luck check out the Movies nominated for MTV Movie Awards. This tends to be a better way to gauge what teens are watching.

What is popular with your teens? Leave a comment and let me know.

A Teens View of Social Media

One of the best way to understand teens, learn their perspectives on various topics and what the current teen trends are is to ask them questions and to listen to them. This is a point I share frequently because it is the key to understanding teens and to building relationships with them. Occasionally I will share thoughts and quotes from teens in my post or even let a teen share their views and thoughts on certain topics to help us gain insight.

This week I read a blog post written by a teen talking about her perspectives and thoughts on Social Media. I thought this was a great opportunity to see Social Media from the perspective of a teen. So I asked if I could share their blog post with each of you.

Let me first tell you a little about my guest blogger. Allie is a 19 year- old freshmen at the University of Connecticut majoring in English. Her favorite App is either Twitter or Instagram and her favorite TV show is Suits on the USA network. You can check out Allie’s blog where she writes about life and the transition from being a kid to an adult.

For Your Eyes Only, written by Allie.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever. I love social media. Sosososo much, in facebookfact I spend 70% of my conscious time scrolling through various news feeds—in class, mid conversation, half asleep, I’m basically always online (except when you try to text me, you’ll probably get a response in 3 hours – 2 days). And after spending so much time this way, I’ve realized that a lot of people are misusing social media (or is everyone else doing it right and I’m LIKE TOTALLY using it wrong?!?!). But before I get into what I mean by that I’ll preface with an explanation.

In my opinion: sympathy sucks. I hate being babied, coddled, comforted, the works. Yes, even when I’m upset. Leave me alone. I don’t want or need the “I’m sorry’s” or “Are you okay” or “I’m here for you” especially the pitying looks that come along with it. In my opinion pity helps no one.

twitterTrue authentic friendship and all that jazz is unspoken. I’ll come to you. Likewise, if you’re upset don’t assume I don’t care, I do, I’m giving you the space I know I’d want and sparing the awkward pity exchanges. Again, obviously if we’re friends call me, text me, I’m here. But only if you ask, I’m not going to intrude on your grief, it’s not about me and I don’t want to make it about me.

So what, does this have to do with social media? Ahhh great question, and so you shall see… Cue the transition!

On Facebook I have 700+ friends (after the post graduation purge), 120+ twitter followers (I only follow like 70 people, so I’m pretty popular OKAY), 80+ Instagram followers (okay so instagrammy pictures just suck), and like 4 people who snapchat me regularly. Basically the epitome of popularity, RIGHT? Anyways, my followings and friendships are considered small. But seriously, are there really more than 700 people who I can call my friend? Or that I take interest in the happenings of their lives? Heeeeellllllll naw. Let’s face it, if these pages actually reflected my close friendships there’d be about 10 people on each (maybe fewer).

But is that what social media is really about? Facebook is a place to make connections with old and new friends. It’s for sharing pictures, videos, little tiny snippets of our lives to the people we’ve encountered along the way. Twitter is even less of that, can you really form or upkeep bonds in 140 characters or less? Again, I repeat: heeeeellllllll naw. I follow comedians, celebrities, parody accounts, NYC_Blonde (<3333), and sure my friends too. Twitter is about laughs, tiny nuggets of information, and the sharing of non-problems like tripping in public or complaining about the weather. And the same goes for Instagram and snapchat. These are public forums, and most times open to anyone and everyone.

So the problem is, that people are using these places to air dirty laundry and to express serious problems. I am definitely not saying that you’re problems aren’t real or that what you’re going through isn’t tough. Not at all. But I am trying to be realistic. Realistically, how many of your 100+ followers actually care? How many of them will actually want to help you. Oh yeah, I’m sure you’ll get plenty of “keep your head up” replies or “stay strong” comments. But how many of them are invested enough in your life to share your pain? How many actually have your phone number and can call you to make sure you’re okay?

And believe you me that I do not want even a fraction of my followers to try to comfort me. I sleep easier knowing I have Madison on speed dial and that Taylor will run across campus to see me. And that my other close friends, no matter how far away will sit with me in silence on the phone until I want to talk. Moral of this too long story: you have real friends, use them. Because when Facebook and Twitter go the same way as MySpace, most of your ‘friends’ will disappear.

Be in the Know about Snapchat

In early December I first heard of a new smartphone application that was popular with Teens called Snapchat. One goal I have with my blog is to inform youthworkers and parents of what is popular and trending with teens especially when it could be harmful, inappropriate or misused by their teens. With the hustle and Bustle of the Holiday season I did not get a post up about it sooner and I apologize for that.

snapSnapchat is getting more attention every day being highlighted in numerous articles and blogs and even mentioned on the latest episode of Parenthood. This app is basically a picture sharing application but what makes it unique is you can set your pictures to self destruct. Meaning, if I send someone a picture I can set a timer so that once the person who I am sending the picture to opens it, they only have 10 seconds to view it before it is erased from their phone. Sounds fun right? One of the concerns that many people have with this application is that it is directly geared towards sexting.

Even if it is not intended to be used for sexting that is one reputation it has received. Just skim through the reviews in the iTunes App store and you will see comments like, “15 year old male username: ********** looking for 13-18 F dirty or clean.” In fact there are numerous posts in the reviews section like this. People telling their age, sex, basics of what they look like and then asking for other random people to follow them and Snapchat with them. Some say specifically “no nudes” meaning no nude pictures.

Now I am not saying every teen or person using Snapchat is engaging in sexting. Over Christmas I was speaking with a relative and they mentioned how their daughter uses it as a fun way to communicate with their cousins. I also spoke to a group of teens about Snapchat and one teen said “personally, it’s another form of texting. The kind of pics I send is of food, or what I’m doing, what I’m watching, and a bunch of funny faces.” I actually think this is how most teens are using the app, as another fun alternative to texting.

What I am saying is be aware of what apps are on your teens phones and what apps are popular with teens. Be in the Know. Have conversations with them about appropriate behavior and use of the smartphone.

Here are links to several other articles and post related to Snapchat if you would like more information or some tips for discussing this app with your teenager:

NBC Today Show Story from Dec. 4th, 2012 about Snapchat

A Parents Take on Snapchat via Mashable

Snapchat- Kids Can Send Explicit Pictures that Self Destruct via Parenting Today’s Kids (Good parenting tips in this article)

71% of Teens Hide their Online Behavior from their Parents

As long as there have been teenagers, there have been teens hiding stuff from their parents. They try to hide their behavior, their report card, something illegal they should not have etc. In today’s technology age teens are also hiding what they are doing online.  McAfee, the world’s largest dedicated security technology company, recently released findings from the company’s 2012 Teen Internet Behavior study showing what teens are hiding and how they are doing it.

The study found that over half of teens (61%) feel confident that they know how to hide what they do online from parents and 71% (Up from 45% in 2010) of teens have actually done something to hide their online behavior.” How are teens hiding their online behavior? Here are the top ten ways teens hide their online behavior as identified by the study.

  1. Clearing the browser history (53%)
  2. Close/minimize browser when parent walked in (46%)
  3. Hide or delete IMs or videos (34%)
  4. Lie or omit details about online activities (23%)
  5. Use a computer your parents don’t check (23%)
  6. Use an internet-enabled mobile device (21%)
  7. Use privacy settings to make certain content viewable only by friends (20%)
  8. Use private browsing modes (20%)
  9. Create a private email address unknown to parents (15%)
  10. Create duplicate/fake social network profiles (9%)

Youth Worker and Parent Tips: If you work with teens or have teens in your home, here are a few practical tips to help you navigate your teens internet behavior. (Note: some of these tips were taken directly from McAffee’s report)

  •  Have “frequent one-to-one conversations with teens to get through to them about the choices they’re making online and the risks and consequences of their choices.”

  • “Be diligent about setting parental controls, which includes keeping a watchful eye to know if/when teens discover ways around them, as many already have.”

  • “Be upfront with teens about monitors and controls implemented on their internet devices, as half of teens say they would think twice about their online activities if they knew parents were watching.”

  • Check the history on your computer. You can see past pages that have been visited, if you do not recognize a site, check it out and become in the know. If you notice that there is not a lot of history, this alerts you that someone is deleting the history after their use and maybe trying to hide something.

  • Place all computers in an open space where the screen is visible from a distance and keep a watchful eye when teens are using the computer. Parents, allowing a computer in your teens bedroom is not a good idea.  Same with allowing them to take their cell phone into their room at night. This allows unsupervised use and creates temptation for teens.

  • Stay in the know. Follow news/media/blog posts on internet behavior and what you need to be aware of.  A couple good sites/resources are Mashable.com or the MSNBC Science and Technology section (sign up for the e-newslettter). On twitter? Then here are some great follows that will keep you in the know @Mashable @SueScheff and @CommonSenseNews just to name a few. Fact is there are many great resources available today, it may take a little bit of work but it is better than throwing your hands up and giving up.

The McAffee study has a lot more interesting findings than just what I covered in this post. Such as what are teens actually accessing and hiding, a look at what’s at stake, the disconnect between what teens are doing and what parents are aware of and much more. I encourage you to check out the full study located here.