The stats have been saying for some time that Facebook’s demographic is decidedly older than the tween and teen set, and tweens and teens have been saying that longer than the stats show. Once moms and brands flooded Facebook the younger crowd found other places to hang out virtually.
Do you know where those other “places” are?
It can be confusing and difficult to keep up, even for someone fairly well versed in digital media. There are a few categories of apps and platforms that younger users typically leverage: texting apps, anonymous gossip apps, photo apps, and chatting/dating apps.
This site does a great job of explaining 15 of the most common sites tweens and teens are using instead of Facebook. Twitter and Tumblr might sound familiar; I’m guessing that Whisper, Yik Yak, and Omegle aren’t.
If I’m being honest, some of these apps scare me more than a little bit. Yik Yak and Secret-Speak Freely encourage negativity, criticism, and a harshness we’d be shocked at if done in person. Omegle puts two strangers together in their choice of a chat room or video chat room. I don’t know about you, but that terrifies me, especially for anyone who allows digital devices to be used without supervision. Even kids with the best of intentions can be bombarded with inappropriate language, offers, and links to adult sites.
These sites aren’t going away; in fact, there will always be new apps and new worries. The best way to help your tweens and teens navigate this unfamiliar landscape is to do it with them.
*Establish rules. Have a contract if necessary, and hold up your end of the bargain.
*Do random checks of all digital devices. Know their passwords, and check often. Not because you don’t trust your kids, but because it’s your job to do everything you can to keep them safe.
*Look at the sites they’re interested in together. Talk about them. Talk about the kids they know who use the sites and what their experiences are like. Then talk some more.
*Show them how you use social media. Let them see your Facebook page or your Twitter feed. Be a positive role model of how to stay safe and still make connections online.
What are your tips and thoughts on new media? We’d love to hear them, either here in the comments or on our Facebook page.