The old adage about “Blink and You Will Miss It” is certainly true of the changes that technology brings. The blinding speed at which new devices and social media applications (apps) emerge seems to only be picking up pace. Where Facebook and straight-running text messaging were the standard forms of youth communication with their peers just a short time ago, lots of new ways to communicate have emerged.
As parents or mentors, being in the know about what social media applications are gaining popularity with youth is critically important in helping them make wise choices. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 92% of teens report going online daily, with 29% indicating that they stay online constantly. No doubt, pre-teen online rates are not too far behind.
While the Pew Research Center found that more than half of teens still use Facebook as one form of communication, 71% of surveyed teens indicate use of more than one form of communication. Here are the predominate newer categories of social media apps to be aware of:
Time-Limited Text, Picture, and Video Messaging
Social media apps such as Snapchat and Hash place a time-limit on how long a message or photo/video is viewable before it disappears into cyberspace. As you can imagine, this type of social media app can be used for bullying behavior if someone should so choose to do so.
Video Chatting: Known Parties and Anonymous
Many pre-teens and teens use video chat as a way to talk with their friends, much like previous generations used the telephone to chat with buddies. What you may not be aware of though is that some youth are using video chat services that enable regular video chatting with strangers. Omegle is an example of such a service.
Group Messaging and Public Message Viewing
Pre-teens and teens also love group chatting with one another. Thereby, the constant ping, ping, pings that you hear coming from their phones. With group messaging services such as ooVoo and KiK, kids can chat with others they have in their group.
There are also messaging services out there that make chat and messages open for more than just one’s small group to see. They open up the messaging for input or following by a much broader audience. Examples include Whisper and Yik Yak. Yes, many of these services specify age limits for use, but are dependent on the user to self-report.
So you want to know the crazy thing about all of the social media apps I have just let you know about? Come back in a year and the landscape of social media that our youth are using may be all different. How are parents and other interested adults supposed to keep up with these changes? Fortunately, there are some groups who are watching for changes on a continuing basis and offering tools to educate adults and children about online safety.
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