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.

Teen Trends: Summer of 2014

Did you spend your summer Vamping or watching a full season of a TV show in one sitting? Or are you taking the time to record a video of yourself doing some crazy stunt to post on YouTube? Maybe these don’t occupy your time, but for many teens, this is what has captivated their summer.

Let’s breakdown some of the Current Trends in Teen Culture.

Vamping: A fun new way to say “I stayed up late.” Teens staying up into the wee hours of vampingthe night surfing the internet, texting or playing video games is not a new trend. But taking a picture of your self and tagging it with #Vamping is. Read more about teens, sleep deprivation and Vamping in this New York Times Article.

“Fire Challenge” -Teens Set themselves on Fire: Videos have been on YouTube for several years showing teens putting a flammable liquid on themselves and then lighting it. In the past I have seen this viral video stunt done in small amounts. A dab on the arm or hand that is quickly extinguished. This summer the Fire Challenge gained popularity with oitnbteens dousing themselves in accelerant and lighting it. Luckily, out of the teens I spoke with, more have seen these videos than have actually partaken in the stunt.

Binge Watching Netflix:When I asked a group of teens what recent trends they have seen, unanimously they mentioned watching Netflix. Not just watching a movie or a TV show here or there. But sitting down and watching full seasons of a TV show in a short amount of time. Often in one or two nights. The most popular show teens have been binge watching on Netflix, Orange is the New Black.

hookahHookah Smoking: Recent studies suggest 1 in 5 teens have smoked Hookah (essentially a water pipe that is used to smoke specially made tobacco) in the last year. I shared this statistic with a group of teens and asked them if it sounded accurate. They responded with the following statements:

  • Everyone around here does it all the time! It’s like a hobby for some teens.”
  • It is very popular in my area. Just about everyone does it.”
  • “I have seen a lot of people in the area use Hookah pens. According to my knowledge they use it because it is water vapor and not real smoke yet it still contains nicotine/tobacco products. They also use it since it is cheap.”

The Positive: When I read articles that are labeled “Dangerous New Teen Trend,” or “Parents Be Aware of the Crazy Stuff your Teen is Doing,” I get upset. The reason being, articles like these lead us to be fearful for our teens and think they are all on some crazy mission to destroy themselves. I know that is not the case.

That is why I want to share with you some of the great things teens have been up to this summer. I asked the same group of teens what trends they were seeing this summer and here are some of the positive things they shared with me:

  • Engaging in new sports such as Rugby.
  • Taking summer school or college courses to get ahead.
  • Working a summer job.
  • Hanging out with their friends.
  • Going to the beach.
  • Going on trips with family.

The Ice Bucket Challenge: Does anyone remember back in April and May when teens were engaging in the “Cold Water Challenge?” They were jumping into bodies of cold Ice Bucket Challengewater and challenging their friends to do the same or donate to a charity. At the time there were several media stories talking about the dangers of the Cold Water Challenge and encouraging teens not to do it.

Fast forward a couple months, move from jumping in a lake to pouring ice water on your head and add in a single charity and you have the biggest trend not just for teens but everyone. My Facebook news feed and my favorite late night talk shows are full of videos of people taking the Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS. Here is what teens have to say about the challenge:

  • Everyone in my town has been doing it, I have never seen anything like this before it is crazy. I thinks it has its drawbacks but it is great for the awareness of the disease.
  • I haven’t done it, but its been done by some of the senior citizens in our community and they challenged others I think it’s a fun safe challenge compared to others.
  • I’ve done it and also donated. I think it’s a trending challenge for a great cause, but many, including myself, are forgetting to spread awareness.”
  • I have done it and donated and I think it is amazing!! It’s getting people to know the cause and be aware of it!
  • I have done it… Twice and so have my friends. I haven’t donated yet. But I will try my best to donate at least $50 if possible. I think of it being a safer challenge/ dare rather than the fire or cinnamon challenges. Especially since it is for a good cause.
  • I think the Ice Bucket Challenge is a really fun, creative, and positive way to send a message to many people about ALS. You’re not getting hurt, it’s a positive message, and it’s fun! It makes people want to do it, and it gets a lot of people to donate, but it also spreads the message as well.

Leave a comment and let me know what Teen Trends have you seen gain popularity this summer?

#TheLinesProject

Last April I shared about #SemiColonProject416. This is where teens drew a semicolon on their wrist to represent that they struggle with self-harm, depression or suicidal semi colonthoughts. Drawing the semicolon on your wrist and seeing others with the semicolon on their wrist was a show of support, that you are not alone with your struggles and that you can overcome what ever it is you are facing.

I spoke to several teens who said participating in the #SemiColonProject416 helped them feel normal and made them realize that they could talk to their friends about the issues they were facing. Overall it made them feel like they were not alone with the struggles they faced.

thelinesThis week I came across a similar project scheduled for next week (December 15-20th) called #TheLinesProject. This is a similar act of drawing on your wrist if you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide. One significant difference is if you are not experiencing these thoughts but want to show support to those who are you draw the lines on your right wrist. If you are experiencing thoughts of depression and self-harm you draw the lines on your left wrist.

Just a few clicks on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr show this picture re-posted tens of thousands of times. Many of the teens I spoke to about #TheLinesProject had not heard about it. But with Social Media today I am betting many will know about it by the end of the week.

Teens desire to feel part of a community, to feel like they are normal or at least not too different from their peers. For teens that struggle with various negative thoughts, this is one way for them to share that they have gone through some hardships and that they have struggled. And it is a great opportunity for teens to show support for one another.

Parent and Youth Worker Tips:

  • If you see a teen with a the lines drawn on their wrist, ask them about it. Ask them what it means or why they have drawn it on their skin.
  • Ask them if they want to talk.
  • I am not a counselor or a psychologist, if there is one that works at your organization or school please share this with them and discuss how you should proceed if you see a teen with a these lines drawn on their arm.
  • I do not know much about this yet, but I do not see a need to freak out at every teen who has a semicolon drawn on them. But I do see it as a sign from that teen, maybe a little flag saying “help me” or “notice me.” As parents and youth workers when we see something like this we need to let the teens know that we care for them.
  • Be there for your teens. Love on them. Show them that they matter.
  • Become familiar with the resources in your community that deal with teens who have suicidal thoughts or self-harm.

 

 

Interesting Articles About Teens

I read many articles about teens, teen trends and teen culture each week. Occasionally I share a few of the articles that have grabbed my attention. Here are four from the last couple of weeks.

“Bored teens charged in Aussie student’s death.” I hear teens say they are bored all the time. Heck I said it when I was a teen. But I never went out and killed someone because I was bored. This article reminded me why we need more caring adults reaching out to teens and providing positive activities for teens.

“Teens Use Twitter to Thumb for Rides.” I had several friends share this article with me (Thanks!). It talks about a trend where teens utilize social media to hitch a ride, other wise known as “cyber hitching.” Although I do not think getting rides from strangers is a trend, I can see teens using this to hitch rides with peers.

“Thigh Gap.” This new body conscious trend has teens striving for an almost impossible body image.

With all these depressing or negative articles I have to share something positive as well. The Peace First Prize finalist were recently announced. Check out these AMAZING young people striving to make a difference in the world.

Teens Vote, Ashton Wins

One of my favorite awards shows each year is the Teen Choice Awards. Why you ask? Not because of their cool surf board awards or because One Direction performs. It is because the Teen Choice Awards are a great glimpse into what is popular with teens.

This year over 150 Million votes were cast online BY TEENS. That is a huge number of teens voting for which artist they like, what TV shows they view and who they think are the trend setters.

If you did not see the show, here are a few notable award winners: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Bad Part 2 won awards in 8 different categories, Pitch Perfect took home 4 awards and Pretty Little Liars scored 7 awards. Miley Cyrus was honored with a Fashion Trendsetter award and her song “We Can’t Stop” won Choice Summer song. In the Social Networking realm, Twitter took home the award for Choice Social Network.

To view all the winners head over to the Teen Choice Awards website.

This year the highlight of the show for me came from Ashton Kutcher. He took home the Ultimate Choice award and then delivered some of the best advice I have ever heard a celebrity deliver to teens. If you have not seen it, please take a minute to watch it. I guarantee you are going to want to share it with the teens in your life.

Here are a few notable quotes that I particularly enjoyed and felt were powerful messages for our teens today:

Opportunity: “I never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job.”
Being Sexy: “Be Smart. Be Thoughtful. Be Generous.”
Living Life: “Build a life, don’t live one.”

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.

Teens are Getting Their Shake On!

If you have had access to the internet or a teenager in the last two weeks, by now you have probably heard about the Harlem Shake. It is the latest viral video craze that is sweeping the internet teens are getting in on the action.

Here is the basic context. You and your friends put on the song, Harlem Shake by Baauer. For the first 15 seconds one person dances awkwardly, often times with a mask or something covering their face, and everyone else pretends they do not see the person. After 15 seconds (when the songs beat changes) you cut to everyone dancing and going crazy. I know, complex isn’t it. If you have a few minutes or hours to spare just type Harlem Shake into YouTube and you will be amused for as long as you can take it. Here is one of the more popular ones on You Tube that currently has over 22 million views.

I talked to teens across the country and found that almost all of them have been in a Harlem Shake video (or several) with their school, team, youth group, Club, family or friends.

When trends or viral videos like the Harlem Shake pop up, and they pop up almost every month these days, some will say that they lead to negative behavior. This week I heard of two cases where teens were suspended from school for their roles in creating or attempting to create a Harlem Shake video. One case involved teens lying to their teacher about what they were doing and pushing the limits on the appropriateness of the dance moves they were doing.

Overall viral videos like the Harem Shake can be a lot of fun for teens. But we have to remember that teens are still developing and sometimes may not make the best decisions. This is often the case when viral videos or trends get teens in trouble. They see a video like the Harlem Shake and think about what they could do to be more outrageous and get more views or likes on YouTube. This thought can outweigh the logical thoughts they have and cause them to push the limits.

What do I suggest when it comes to trends like the Harlem Shake? I will give you an example. A friend of mine who is a pastor made the following tweet tonight: “Who’s up for a Harlem shake video at mid-week tomorrow night? Bring props and we’ll do it.”

I love it! He is recognizing the trend and engaging with teens in making their own video. This means they will have appropriate supervision and guidance but will also have a great time. It can also bring the group closer together through a fun mutual experience.

Youth Tip: Keep your eyes and ears open for the latest trends and figure out how you can engage with your teens in the latest trend. Also, have conversations with them about how far they are willing to go to get likes and views on social media.

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)