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Study Shows Teens Adopting New Social Media and Reducing Facebook Dependency

“Teens Getting Tired of Facebook Drama”

“Teenagers Hate Facebook but They’re Not Logging Off”

“Teens Cooling on Facebook but Warming to Twitter”

“Facebook Losing Ground with Younger Audiences”

Many of the headlines for the latest Pew Center research study of teens and privacy and social media have mistakenly described teens as leaving Facebook for Twitter. That’s not the story. Facebook’s market penetration continues to grow, though very slowly, while Twitter has gained significant momentum. The very reasonable explanation from teens themselves is that there are too many parents and other adults and social media can harbor peer-driven “drama”. This has made it sometimes a difficult environment, and teens are mixing it up with new apps and sites . They are joining social media services like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and enjoying the more immediate or more fun activities each of those are known for.

Let’s compare adult versus teen use of both social networking and Twitter over time (from the Pew study):

You’ll note there isn’t an actual decline in the number of teens on social networking sites, just a nice uptick for Twitter. A quarter of all teens are using Twitter, as compared to 16% of adults. In an eMarketer study they found that ½ of US Twitter users were millennials (those ages 12-31). Many teens like the perceived anonymity of Twitter, if only that the average teen has just 79 followers. They enjoy it as a forum for following their favorite celebrities, actors and musicians as well as each other.  The two demographic groups with the highest adoption of Twitter are older teen girls and African American youth of all ages (both at 39%).

And while we can see Twitter picking up speed, what about those other apps and services we hear are “all the rage.” See how the various services rank in this image, below:

The study wasn’t just about cataloguing the current fashions for social media apps and services. They also investigated the teen attitude towards privacy. Concerns about privacy are rampant in the online space, with more sites selling ads, tracking our site visits, collecting our friend lists and reporting our geo-location sometimes with but often without our knowledge. How does the younger generation feel about this sea change in our collective privacy? Turns out teens care quite a bit but their steps to manage their online privacy may feel different from the steps adults take.

Teens are uploading lots of private information like their real names, photos, school names, cell numbers and email addresses. They are also taking steps to limit their friends’ list, remove or block people, and restrict their profiles, resulting in a so-called “privacy paradox”.  To explain this paradox, this Salon writer comments, “Teens care about privacy in a social context, not a big data context. ...Pew found in focus group discussions that teens showed irritation for the increasing adult presence, excessive sharing, and stressful “drama” of the massive social network. Said one respondent: ‘I have two [Facebook accounts]: one for my family, one for my friends.’”

I asked my own children about how they and their friends use Facebook and other social media. And they got a little cagey when I pressed for information about what they are doing on sites or apps they don’t think I use or new ones I might not know about. It’s normal and healthy for our kids to use Facebook in a revised context now that Mom, Dad, their coaches and teachers and future employers are all on. It’s also normal for our kids to want to explore, play and experiment with technology and social environments. Don’t expect to get invited to join – but do feel it’s your right and responsibility to remind your kids about online safety and privacy best practices. Those best practices are still the same:

  1. Be careful about who you allow in your social circle; their actions can impact everyone else
  2. Be careful about clicking a link or accepting a file or app from someone online, even when it’s someone you know; their account could be hacked or under someone else’s control. It could also be a fake one.
  3. Use good, strong passwords that differ from site to site, app to app. Don’t share those passwords with others.
  4. Put a screen lock on your mobile device; it prevents others from accessing your private information, changing a passcode to an app or service; or installing something malicious.
  5. Be considerate of other’s. Don’t comment, post or tag in a way to upset someone else. And if they ask you to remove something, do it.

Another take on this story: http://readwrite.com/2013/05/30/teens-facebook-its-complicated