Trend Lines: The Future of Social Media Education

NAIS

Summer 2018

By Laura Tierney

Teens build relationships with friends through FaceTime and group chats. They nurture friendships with compliments on Instagram and Snapchat. They stay in touch with friends and family overseas with messages on WhatsApp. Social media is just how they socialize these days.

Students are spending an average nine hours each day on their screens, according to Common Sense Media, and social media has become one of the greatest influences on our children’s happiness, health, safety, and future success, according to other reports. Many of the parents and school leaders I’ve talked with initially just wanted social media to go away, but now that it’s here to stay, some adults and students are beginning to see it as a powerful and positive tool.

According to The Social Institute’s 2017–2018 Social Media Survey with nearly 4,450 students from independent schools, more than 80 percent of fifth- through 12th-graders said they believed that social media can have a positive impact on their world, whether that means their school or local community, state, or country.

This is why many independent schools are adopting a proactive, growth-minded, and sustainable approach that empowers students, parents, and educators to positively navigate social media. They strengthen their reputations, protect their privacy, follow positive role models, and more. This new approach better aligns with a school’s mission and values, supporting students’ health and wellness. The future of social media is bright, and it’s one where we empower and equip, rather than scare and restrict.

The Current Landscape for Schools

Since social media really took off 10 years ago, few institutions or parents have found a relevant, effective solution to helping kids navigate the world of posts, texts, and selfies. Why? There are three current issues at play: what schools teach about social media, who teaches it, and how it’s taught.

Schools continue to approach social media education as a matter of digital citizenship. Common Sense Media defines digital citizenship as the ability to “think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world.”

We all want students to have digital skills, but telling students to use “digital citizenship” when using technology is like telling them to use “proper navigation” when driving a car. In the world of social media, relevance is everything, and “digital citizenship” is simply not relevant.

Furthermore, most schools use a top-down approach in which adults teach students. Of course, this happens for nearly every school subject, why not social media? The problem again lies with relevance.

According to the 2017–2018 Social Media Survey, 100 percent of students said they believed they know more about social media than their parents or school faculty. How are schools and parents supposed to teach something teens believe they know better (and likely do)?

Lastly, digital citizenship is often taught by adults strictly through “don’ts.” Don’t post this, and don’t share that. Don’t join that app, and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. However, imagine if a coach only taught how not to throw a ball or how not to shoot it. Players wouldn’t know what to do. Students are not being taught what to do on social media.

This relevance-lacking, top-down, don’ts-driven approach is failing our students. Students are progressing through school unequipped to navigate life with a phone in their hand. They are overwhelmed by the pressures of cyberbullying. They are being rejected by colleges because of racist Facebook posts. Sleep deprivation among teens is rising because they can’t put their phones away at night. Nude photos of teens are shared around school. Tweens are committing suicide because they’re cyberbullied.

As long as students feel like they are being lectured, they will tune out. They will fall victim to the same landmines, and this negative cycle will continue, potentially tarnishing the reputation of both students
and schools.

The Future of Social Media Education

We must refine social media education with a positive and proactive approach. The Social Institute works with several independent schools to implement such an approach and empowers students, parents, and faculty. We are halfway through a three-year strategic partnership with Ravenscroft School (NC) and have learned four best practices.

Integrate the curriculum. Rather than putting “digital citizenship” in a corner, Ravenscroft integrates social media life skills into its school’s advisory program, which encourages character development, health, and wellness. The school weaves lessons throughout its advisory program, which promotes “leading self,”
“leading with others,” and “changing your world.”

Students learn to have their social media profiles represent their true self and character. They learn to use empathy when engaging with and posting about others. And because social media is a student’s microphone to the world, sixth- through 12th-grade students learn how to use platforms to spark positive change. The program resonates with students because it supports their belief that there is no distinction between your “real self”
and “digital self.” It’s simply “you” and your ability to have high integrity and character—with or without a device in your hand.

Use a bottom-up approach. Rather than using a top-down approach, in which students are lectured by adults, Ravenscroft students co-lead the program. Student focus groups help develop materials and lesson plans, ensuring they are most relevant to the apps and behaviors students witness online. It’s effective because younger students admire the older student-leaders, and student-leaders help set the standard around social media use at the school. With a train-the-trainer approach, Ravenscroft’s 11th- and 12th-grade student-leaders are now learning to teach sixth- through 10th-grade students, parents, and faculty about positive social media use. It’s a team approach.

Focus on the do’s. Rather than harping “don’t do this” and “don’t share that,” we have found that reinforcing the actions to take allows students to strengthen their reputations, better handle the challenges, and change their worlds for the better. In Ravenscroft’s #WinAtSocial program, students learn seven Social Standards—including “protect your privacy like you’re famous,” and “use your mic for good.” (See “Gold Standards,” below.)

Assemble a cross-departmental team. The power of social media impacts nearly every administrative department. Susan Perry, Ravenscroft’s assistant head of school for student affairs, says, “Our students and parents have longed for a sustained, systemic message about how to connect conversations and educate about technology and social media. Our work with our faculty, students, and parents allows us to have an ongoing, supportive, and educational dialogue about how to leverage social media for respectful outcomes. We feel our commitment to community health must include such a systemic educational approach to understanding the potential positive impact social media can bring.”

How We Get There

As one of the most powerful influences on a child being happy, healthy, and successful, social media needs to be a priority. Schools have the opportunity to get ahead of the game. It starts with administration teams determining why it’s a priority and championing a holistic approach to educating students, parents, and faculty. The upfront work is hard, but the impact is remarkable—these are lifelong skills that students require.

Once schools make the commitment, there will be less helicoptering and more huddling. Less fear and more trust. Less bullying and more empathy. Fewer fire drills and more high-fives. Less negativity and more positivity. The future of social media education is bright, and it’s one where students are empowered and hold one another to high standards, whether online or off.  ▪

How does your school teach students, parents, and faculty about social media? Tell us on Twitter at @NAISnetwork.

AUTHOR

Laura Tierney is founder and president of The Social Institute, which empowers students, parents, and educators to use social media positively. She works with a number of independent schools as well as organizations like the U.S. Olympic Committee.

What Parents Need to Know About Social Media and Anxiety

Learn to recognize the warning signs of anxiety disorder and help your kid keep social media use healthy and productive. By Caroline Knorr 
What Parents Need to Know About Social Media and Anxiety

From cyberbullying to FOMO to cruel comments, social media can be a land mine for kids. Issues we parents never had to worry about, such as an intimate photo texted to the entire school or Instagram videos of a birthday party we weren’t invited to, are now a risk for many tweens and teens. With kids’ digital well-being a concern, researchers are exploring potential links between social media and the rise in teen suicide ratestech addiction, and loss of real-life social skills. And many parents are wondering: Is social media causing my kid to have anxiety?

It’s an important question — and one that makes for compelling headlines for worried parents. While it’s too early to say with certainty (this is, after all, the first generation of “digital natives”), the reality is somewhat nuanced. Some research has observed a relationship between social media use and anxiety in kids, but it’s difficult to know if and when social media is causing anxiety or whether kids who are anxious are turning to social media as a way to soothe themselves or seek support. How kids use social media matters, too: Social comparison and feedback-seeking behaviors have been associated with depressive symptoms, which often co-occur with anxiety.

Of course, it’s common for kids to feel anxious sometimes. But there’s a big difference between occasional anxiety and an anxiety disorder that requires professional care. If your kid is overly self-conscious, has uncontrollable and unrealistic anxiety, is unable to make it go away, and avoids things, you may want to seek help. (Learn more about anxiety in kids at the Child Mind Institute.) For these kids, social media may act as a trigger for — though not the root cause of — their anxious feelings. There are also kids, who, for a variety of reasons, may be more sensitive to the anxiety-producing effects of social media. For example, kids with social anxiety disorder may prefer online interactions over face-to-face interactions. Bottom line: You may not know the impact of social media on your kid until issues surface.

Unfortunately, simply cutting off social media isn’t necessarily the answer. It’s such a huge part of many kids’ lives that not having access to social media could take a toll. In fact, being connected to friends through social media may counterbalance some of its negative effects.

Without conclusive research to back up claims that social media causes anxiety — and some evidence to show it’s beneficial — it’s up to you to keep tabs on how your kid’s doing. Though it adds an extra layer to your parenting duties, it’s a good idea to get a good sense of your kid’s online life. Ask kids to give you a tour of their social media world. As they’re showing you around, you might hear some of the positive stuff you weren’t expecting, as well as some of the problem areas your kid could use help with. Also, add social media to the “wellness checks” that you already do. For example, when you ask how they slept and what they ate, ask how they’re feeling about social media. Is it mostly positive, helpful, and supportive, or do they want to step back but aren’t sure how? Here are some more tips for keeping social media a positive for kids:

Encourage self-care. Seeing photos of a trip to the beach your friends didn’t invite you to can really sting. If your kid is super bummed or tired of digital drama, suggest they take a break from social media for a while. In fact, if they post a status update that they’re taking a break, their friends might be very accepting because they’ve had similar feelings.

Help kids put social media in perspective. People post stuff that makes their lives look perfect — not the homework struggles, or the fight they had with their dad, or the hours it took to look as good as possible for the camera. Remind kids that social media leaves the messy stuff out — and that everyone has ups and downs.

Encourage offline activities. In a world where kids could spend their days lying around looking at Instagram, it’s doubly important for them to feel as though they’re cultivating their inner lives. Prompt them to balance social media with soul-nourishing activities such as hobbies, exercise, reading, and helping others. Otherwise, what are they going to brag about on social media?

Talk about their feelings. Ask them what it feels like to look at other kids’ feeds. Is there a tipping point from when they feel OK to when they start to feel bad about their own lives? Encourage them to stop before that feeling sets in and do something good for themselves instead.

Let them know you’re there for them. You may not understand everything about your kid’s online social life. But recognizing it’s important to them makes your kid feel valued — and more likely to come to you when they encounter problems.

Get help. If you see any cause for concern, including mood swings that seem to result from social media, not taking pleasure in activities he or she used to enjoy, and having accompanying symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches, visit your kid’s pediatrician for a professional opinion.

The Child Mind Institute contributed to this article. Learn more at childmind.org.

Parents Are As Plugged in As Their Kids

Common Sense Media

Michael Robb

Director of Research | Dad of two

Common Sense Media Census Measures Plugged-In Parents

It’s a family thing: How the media environment shapes kids’ use — and what we can do to make it better. By Michael Robb 12/5/2016

Everybody knows tweens and teens rack up lots of screen time. But what about parents? Common Sense Media’s new report, The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens, finally provides some answers. In collaboration with the Center on Media and Human Development at Northwestern University, we surveyed over 1,700 parents of children age 8 to 18 on their attitudes and concerns about their kids’ — and their own — media use. We hope that taking an honest look at how parents use media and tech, how they manage and monitor their kids, and how they talk to kids about media will help us all raise media-savvy kids and good digital citizens.

READ THE FULL REPORT: The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens

The great news is that the report shows that parents are trying to be good digital role models and are overwhelmingly supportive of the positive benefits of media in their kids’ lives. No, we’re not perfect — and the report reveals the tension between what we do and what we want our kids to do. But we’re concerned about our kids, and most of us think we have a role in protecting them from online risks. Finally, the report suggests that when parents are aware of their kids’ online activities, they’re less likely to worry — which is a great reason to be engaged with your kids’ media. Here are some of the report’s key findings:

Parents are avid media users, too! On any given day, parents of American tweens and teens average more than nine hours with screen media each day. Eighty-two percent of that time (almost eight hours) is devoted to personal screen media activities such as watching TV, social networking, and video gaming, with the rest used for work.

Parents believe they “walk the walk.” In fact, 78 percent of all parents believe they are good media and technology role models for their children. Mothers are more likely than fathers to report this.

Many parents have concerns about their children’s social media use and other online activities. For example, 43 percent of parents are worried about their children spending too much time online. A third of parents are concerned that technology use is hurting their children’s sleep.

Parents keep tabs on kids’ media use. Most parents said that monitoring their tweens’ and teens’ media use is important for their safety. Two-thirds of parents say that monitoring media use is more important than respecting kids’ privacy. More than two in five parents check their children’s devices and social media accounts “always” or “most of the time.”

Hispanic parents are more aware and more concerned. Hispanic parents are more aware of their kids’ media use and manage it more than black or white parents. They also indicated more concern about their children’s online activities. For example, 60 percent of Hispanic parents were concerned about their children spending too much time online, as compared to 37 percent of white parents and 33 percent of black parents.

As the report reveals, parents face a number of challenges in the digital age. The sheer amount of media and tech in our lives makes it tough to monitor and manage our own use — let alone our kids’. And though screen-time guidelines are helpful, there are no hard-and-fast rules about how much is OK and how much is “too much.” 

But amid these obstacles, parents’ positive attitudes about the role of technology is a hopeful sign. We should build on this optimism by supporting uses of technology that foster academic and personal development. Role-modeling is a great start to promoting a healthy digital lifestyle, and parents can help establish good habits through family rituals like device-free dinners and media activities that strengthen relationships. Taking a hard look at the family media environment is an important step toward helping kids develop the digital citizenship skills they need to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly.

Apps to Help Keep Track of What Your Kids Are Doing Online

Though open communication is best, these tools can help parents who want a little extra control.

Christine Elgersma Senior Editor, Apps| Mom of one 

Senior Editor, Apps| Mom of one
Apps to Help Keep Track of What Your Kids Are Doing Online

As kids become more independent, we want to foster their sense of responsibility and give them room to prove themselves. But it can be difficult to navigate this natural separation, especially when kids are doing who-knows-what on their devices. There are constant questions: Where are they? Who’s contacting them? What are they doing online? Since tweens and teens are often tight-lipped about their lives, it can be tricky to get clear answers.

Though direct communication is always best, and the conversations around online safety and digital citizenship should start long before a kid becomes a teen, there are occasions when parents feel it’s necessary to monitor what kids are doing on their devices. Maybe they’ve broken your trust or you’re worried about their safety. Whatever the case, there are tools to track what your kid is up to. Be aware that spying on your kid can backfire and that kids can find a way around just about any type of tracking. But if you’re at the end of your rope or just need extra help managing your kid’s digital life, then one of these tools might work for you. To get more information, check out our advice about cell phone issues, including basic parental controls, and less invasive (and expensive) ways to limit access to content.

Bark: Similar to VISR (see below), kids and parents need to work together to hook up accounts to the service. It also analyzes all device activity and alerts parents when a problem is found. If they get an alert, parents will see the content in question and get suggestions on how to handle it ($9/month).

Circle Home and Go: This app manages the Circle with Disney device, which pairs with your home Wi-Fi and controls all Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Can create time limits on specific apps, filter content, set bedtimes, and restrict internet access for the whole house or for individuals. Circle Go will let parents filter, limit, and track on networks outside the home Wi-Fi (the Circle device is $99, the Circle Home app is free, and the Circle Go service will be $9.95/month).

Limitly: If screen time and specific app use is your concern, this system might work for you. It lets you track your kid’s app use and limit time using the device or certain apps (free, Android-only).

Pocket Guardian: Parents get alerts when sexting, bullying, or explicit images are detected on your kid’s device, though you won’t see the actual content or who it’s from. Instead, the alert can prompt a conversation, and the app offers resources to help ($9.99–$12.99/month).

Trackidz: With this program, you don’t see specific content from your kid’s device, but you can track app installations and use, block browsers and apps, manage time in apps and on the device, block out device-free time, grant bonus time, track location, get an alert when your kid’s phone is turned off, and see your kid’s contacts. It also claims to detect cyberbullying by tracking when your kid’s device use drops dramatically, which can indicate avoidance. Setting up a geo-fence lets parents track a kid’s location and alerts them when a kid has gone outside the boundaries, and a kid can tap the power button to send an emergency message to parents (currently free, but will be $6.99).

VISR: For this one to work, a parent needs the kid’s usernames and passwords, so be aware that it’s easy for kids to set up dummy accounts. Once enabled, the tool analyzes posts and emails for bullying, profanity, nudity, violence, drugs, and late-night use and sends parents alerts when anything iffy is detected (currently free, but will be $5/month).

App Makers Reach Out to the Teenager on Mobile

Here’s an interesting article on the social media habits of teenagers.  It is important for us to remember that middle school students have a strong desire to stay connected to their friends and classmates, and that social media is one of the prime vehicles for connections and affirmation.  The 24/7 nature of social media certainly makes it extra challenging to be a teenager – there’s no vacation from the pressure on the girls to present themselves positively online.  Dave

The New York Times
By CONOR DOUGHERTY JAN. 1, 2016

 

Over the past decade, advertisers have spent untold millions trying to turn Talia Kocar and her peers in the millennial generation into loyal customers. But on a recent afternoon in Santa Monica, Calif., in a kind of consumer torch-passing, Ms. Kocar, 25, watched a focus group of teenagers drink free Snapple and suck Doritos powder off their thumbs while answering questions about their smartphones.

Ms. Kocar works on Wishbone, a social networking application full of breezy polls about pop culture, prom dresses and other fixtures of teenage life. Users — most of them girls — post side-by-side pictures that compare rappers (Lil Wayne or Tyga?), celebrities (Kim Kardashian or Beyoncé?) and the like.

Like most social media apps, Wishbone users achieve status by amassing friends who vote with a thumb tap. There is a bonus, however, which is that twice a day, Ms. Kocar and her team send a “Daily Dozen” of the best and most popular polls to every Wishbone user. This is somewhat like being named “funniest” or “most clever” in a yearbook: Featured polls are guaranteed a lot of votes, and votes, similar to likes on Facebook, are the coin of Wishbone’s realm.
Ms. Kocar said her first attempts at market research began with trips to Starbucks stores and nail salons, where she would find Wishbone users and ask them what they did and did not like about the app. She got lots of information, but wanted more. Hence, the focus group.

Teenagers being teenagers, the room was full of angst and contradictions. They love Instagram, the photo-sharing app, but are terrified their posts will be ignored or mocked. They feel less pressure on Snapchat, the disappearing-message service, but say Snapchat can be annoying because disappearing messages make it hard to follow a continuing conversation. They do not like advertisements but also do not like to pay for things.

At one point a questioner asked the group when they were least likely to be online. “When I’m in the shower,” a girl responded.

Nobody laughed, because it was barely an exaggeration. About three-quarters of United States teenagers have access to a mobile phone, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. Most go online daily and about a quarter of them use the Internet “almost constantly.”

Those numbers have created a growing advertising market and fortunes for apps like Snapchat and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. This year companies are projected to spend $30 billion on in-app advertising in the United States, roughly double what they spent in 2014, according to eMarketer, a research company.

But even though these services all have the same core functions — find friends, post pictures, send messages — teenagers juggle them constantly, developing arcane customs for what to post where and ditching one app for another the moment it becomes uncool.

That churn leaves an opening for upstarts like Wishbone, which is about a year old and already has about three million monthly users. Since July it has ranked among the top 30 most-downloaded social media apps in Apple’s App Store, according to App Annie, a data and analytics company. But staying there will be tough. Mobile apps are a hit or miss business in which a handful of top players get most of the users and money.

 

Hoping to get their app in that elite few, people like Ms. Kocar pore through data and turn to focus groups for insight on how to get new users to sign up and old users to stay. Their efforts are a window into how teenage lives are documented on mobile screens.

“They have immediate social validation or lack of validation at the touch of a button,” said Michael Jones, chief executive of Science Inc., which owns Wishbone. “So if you thought that the immediate gratification generation was two generations ago, you haven’t even seen what immediate gratification looks like until you start spending time with, like, a teen on a phone.”

A Daily Rotation of Apps

One hot afternoon last summer, Leila Khan and Lucy Nemerov, two eighth graders from Palo Alto, Calif., cruised their local mall, scoring free samples at See’s Candies and dropping into Brandy Melville to look at clothes, but not buy. Lucy is an avid Wishbone user, but the app is just one among several that she and her friends rotate through each day.

To manage their identities in and obligations to this world in their pockets, they adhere to rules that have somehow been absorbed and adopted by their peers. For instance, that afternoon, since nothing particularly special happened, Lucy posted a few videos to Snapchat — including a clip of me interviewing her — but nothing on Instagram.

Why the distinction? Because Instagram is special, Leila explained. On Snapchat, where messages disappear, you can be less selective because there is a lower bar for quality. On Instagram, you have to be careful not to clog your friends’ feeds with a barrage of low-quality pictures that might annoy them.

They also regularly delete their Instagram photos so that their profiles never have more than a handful at a time. For comparison, I’m a medium-level Instagram user and have several hundred. They reacted to this information as if it were the smell of warm garbage.

“I have zero right now,” Lucy said.

“Yeah, ’cause I’m like, ‘Oh wait, I look stupid in this one,’ ” Leila said.

Some of Leila’s rules for Instagram include never posting more than one photo a week, avoiding photo filters (too fake) and hashtags (too desperate). She tries to find a timely occasion to post — such as National Watermelon Day — and is so concerned about having the right caption that she keeps a running list of ideas on her iPhone. Neither girl had any such rules for Facebook, because they hardly use it.

App makers fear this kind of juggling the way TV networks fear DVRs. Each time someone leaves one app for another, there is a chance that user will never come back. And since apps make money only when users are plugged in and absorbing ads, the number of monthly users is less important than how many users they get each day — and how long they stay.
Social media apps and messaging services — Wishbone included — tend to get an outsize portion of their ad revenue from a handful of mobile game makers and other app download ads. But Wishbone is making the not-terribly-crazy bet that as people spend more time with their phones and advertisers become comfortable with the medium, more brands and money will follow.

 

For now big advertisers remain focused on the millennial generation, who, at about 18 to 35 years old, are old enough to buy cars, homes and other big-ticket items. But an early wave is starting to think about the next group, said Erna Alfred Liousas, an analyst at Forrester Research, who said the firm had a number of financial services and media companies ask for studies on the under-17 group.

As with coffee and newspapers, the key to a successful app is to make it a daily habit. Which is why in early September, Mr. Jones of Science sat in a cinder block room staring at a computer screen full of data. He was with Benoit Vatere, head of Science’s mobile group, and Peter Pham, the company’s chief business officer, discussing the best time to send push notifications alerting Wishbone users to new polls.

Push notifications — those incessant reminders that make your phone light up and ding — are the infantry of app warfare, cracking the attention span to remind users that someone on the Internet might be talking about them. All summer Wishbone had been sending out alerts four times a day, but the three men were thinking about adding more and, now that students were back in class, trying to recalibrate around the school day.

“Can we have a friends feed at noon?” Mr. Jones asked Mr. Vatere. “It would be great to do ‘Your friends have updated.’ ”

“And you talk about it while you’re at school,” Mr. Pham added.

Every generation has its thing, and the last two have been marked by digital technology. One of the big dividing lines between Generation X and millennials was that millennials grew up with the Internet. A big difference between millennials and the next group — the postmillennials — has been smartphones.

Economic and cultural changes have an even larger influence, argues Neil Howe, an author and historian who is credited with coining the term “millennial generation.” The Great Recession and its aftermath are likely to make the postmillennial generation more risk-averse, he said. At the same time, today’s kids have absorbed lots of parental advice about online safety and bullying.

“There’s a whole new curriculum being pushed by Gen X parents and one thing it emphasizes above all is emotional intelligence and being very sensitive to the needs of others,” Mr. Howe said.

In surveys, his consulting company, LifeCourse Associates, has found that teenagers are extremely anxious about being criticized on social media and are more conscious than their parents of when an app makes them feel bad — or at least aren’t bashful about saying so.

During the recent focus group at Science, one girl said she showed Instagram ideas to at least three people before posting. Another said she deleted any post that did not garner enough likes. “I post and I just delete, because I don’t want to have, like, never mind,” she said, too ashamed to announce the precise number of likes out loud.

Wishbone sees those anxieties as an opportunity. The app doesn’t ask users to take pictures in which they look “sooo beautiful!!!!,” nor does it require having parents who vacation in Instagram-perfect locales. Users just make funny polls to talk about celebrities, makeup and bands. It is about your tastes, not your identity.

 

Rajada Victor, a 14-year-old ninth grader who lives in Los Angeles, was seated near the girl who was ashamed of her paltry likes. In a follow-up interview, she said she had grown exhausted by the frenzy for online status but was a regular on Wishbone, which she checks all the time: in class, while walking to school, on weekends.

“I like the fact that you don’t have to look a certain type of way to post,” she said. “People don’t comment rudely or anything — you’re just comparing stuff.”

Mr. Vatere can see this in the data: Wishbone users frequently describe themselves by their interests — they might like Taylor Swift, for instance — but rarely post personal photos. The app also employs an “everyone gets a trophy” philosophy by having Ms. Kocar and her editorial team choose many different polls, not just the most popular ones, for the coveted Daily Dozen of posts that all Wishbone users vote on.

“You want to create an environment where it doesn’t feel like only 1 percent of the people win,” said Eric Kuhn, Science’s head of product. “And we’ve heard that with other platforms, like as soon as you’re clearly not in that top 1 percent, you don’t want to use the app anymore.”

Some Facts and a Hunch

 

Michael Jones, chief executive of Science Inc. Science owns Wishbone, a social networking app centered on polls. “If you thought that the immediate gratification generation was two generations ago, you haven’t even seen what immediate gratification looks like until you start spending time with, like, a teen on a phone.”
He spent the next two decades tracking the migration of media to the web, to social platforms to mobile phones. Elixir became a website and, as Mr. Jones got more interested in the web than publishing, he started a software company called Userplane that was bought by AOL.

Later Mr. Jones was the chief executive of MySpace, where his job was to try to blunt the ascendance of a new competitor called Facebook. This did not go well.

He founded Science four years ago with Mr. Pham. He calls it a “start-up studio” that helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into businesses. Wishbone is part of Science’s mobile group — which includes several other apps — but Mr. Jones is so enamored with social media that he decided to run the group and Wishbone himself. The Science offices are just a few blocks from the beach in Santa Monica and have requisite start-up touches like exposed ceilings, copious whiteboards and employees who toil quietly while wearing Beats headphones.

Science has raised about $40 million in venture capital, most of it from Hearst Ventures. After the MySpace debacle, Mr. Jones said he initially steered clear of social media and focused on building online commerce businesses such as Dollar Shave Club, a razor subscription service, and DogVacay, a dog-boarding version of Airbnb, the online home-rental service.

“Coming out of MySpace I was like, ahhh, this is so hard — social ads is tough,” he said. “Let’s just take a pause.”

As social media moved to mobile phones, Mr. Jones figured there would be a chance to get back in. Wishbone came out of a few facts and a hunch. The facts are that people spend several hours a day on their phones, and that teenagers favor apps in which everyone gets to create content and be part of the show.

 

The hunch was that a polling app would do well. Mr. Jones knew from his AOL days that polling was among the most addictive of online features. And since successful mobile apps reward repetitive behavior, he figured polling would translate well to smartphones.

If Wishbone were almost anything besides an app, three million users would be a huge success. But apps are a brutal business, where a few gigantic hits like Facebook and YouTube make most of the money. American smartphone owners use about 27 apps per month, but spend about 80 percent of their time in five, according to a recent study by Activate, a consulting firm.

And even the winners can’t rest for long. Facebook, the biggest social network, has tried to defend its top position by buying or trying to buy rival apps as they break through. Facebook tried to buy Snapchat, but was spurned.

Four years ago the company spent $1 billion to buy Instagram, which at the time had a dozen employees and about 30 million monthly users. Today Instagram has more than 400 million, about a quarter of Facebook’s users.

Wishbone is a long way from that top tier, which is why employees show up to meetings with laptops full of statistics about what teenagers are doing. And it is why they spend time running focus groups.

Right around Thanksgiving, Mr. Jones, Mr. Pham and Mr. Vatere started rethinking their strategy for sending out push notifications. All through the summer and fall they had been limiting the number of daily alerts on the assumption that, like them, Wishbone users would be annoyed if they were interrupted by too many pings and dings. And, as one might expect when three fathers make an assumption about teenage girls, they could not have been more wrong.

“We talked to them and they’d be like, ‘Why am I not getting notified when people vote on my stuff?’ ” Mr. Jones said. “And we’d be like, ‘Well, we wouldn’t want to do that ’cause we might send you, like, 50 notifications that you got 50 of your friends to vote on your card.’ They’re like, ‘But that’s what I want.’ ”

“In fact,” Mr. Jones said, “they would even kind of subtly infer that if they didn’t get at least 50, it was kind of like a bad day.”

The same way Gen X measured its worth in answering machine messages, the mobile-minded teenager sees each like and mention as reassurance of an active social life. And when your phone is the default security blanket for enduring the awkwardness of walking a high school hallway, it feels nice to have a bunch of digital hellos ready with a swipe.

So just before Thanksgiving weekend, Wishbone opened the fire hose, sending out notifications for everything — every vote, every mention, everything that has to do with a user on the app. A week later they found several key metrics, like voting, had almost doubled.

One might ask if teenagers need another distraction. In a recent survey by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit research group, half of teenagers said they watched TV while doing their homework, while 60 percent said they texted and three-quarters said they listened to music.

Those in the Wishbone focus group said they loved getting notifications but acknowledged getting lost in their phones. One girl said that it had come to the point that the only way she could finish her homework was to put her phone in another room.

“Sometimes it’s fun ’cause it’s like people are thinking about you and are like, ‘I want to show this to Jada,’ ” said Rajada Victor, the ninth grader in Los Angeles, who goes by Jada. But, she also said, she tries not to become caught up in worrying about social media.

“I’m focusing on my grades and all that stuff,” she said.

And that’s the thing about teenagers: They grow up.

15 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to Beyond Facebook

Next-generation apps that let users text, video-chat, shop, and share their pics and videos are attracting teens like catnip.

Kelly Schryver  Categories: Social Media

Are teens totally over Facebook? Or are they using it even more than ever? Recent reports go back and forth on teens’ favorite digital hangout, but the fact is that the days of a one-stop shop for all social-networking needs are over. Instead, teens are dividing their attention between an array of apps and tools that let them write, share, video-chat, and even shop for the latest trends.

You don’t need to know the ins and outs of every app and site that’s “hot” right now (and frankly, if you did, they wouldn’t be trendy anymore). But knowing the basics — what they are, why they’re popular, and what problems can crop up when they’re not used responsibly — can make the difference between a positive and a negative experience for your kid.


15 Social Media Tools Parents Need to Know About Now

Twitter
Instagram
Snapchat
Tumblr
Google+
Vine
Wanelo
Kik Messenger
Ooovoo
Ask.fm
Yik Yak
WhatsApp
Omegle
Yo.
Whisper


1. Twitter is a microblogging site that allows users to post brief, 140-character messages — called “tweets” — and follow other users’ activities.

Why it’s popular
Teens like using it to share quick tidbits about their lives with friends. It’s also great for keeping up with what’s going on in the world — breaking news, celebrity gossip, etc.

What parents need to know

  • Public tweets are the norm for teens. Though you can choose to keep your tweets private, most teens report having public accounts (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2013). Talk to your kids about what they post and how a post can spread far and fast.
  • Updates appear immediately. Even though you can remove tweets, your followers can still read what you wrote until it’s gone. This can get kids in trouble if they say something in the heat of the moment.
  • It’s a promotional tool for celebs. Twitter reels teens in with behind-the-scenes access to celebrities’ lives, adding a whole new dimension to celebrity worship. You may want to point out how much marketing strategy goes into the tweets of those they admire.

2. Instagram is a platform that lets users snap, edit, and share photos and 15-second videos — either publicly or with a network of followers.

Why it’s popular
Instagram unites the most popular features of social media sites: sharing, seeing, and commenting on photos. Instagram also lets you apply fun filters and effects to your photos, making them look high-quality and artistic.

What parents need to know

  • Teens are on the lookout for “Likes.” Similar to Facebook, teens may measure the “success” of their photos — even their self-worth — by the number of likes or comments they receive. Posting a photo or video can be problematic if teens post it to validate their popularity.
  • Public photos are the default. Photos and videos shared on Instagram are public unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location info can make photos even more visible to communities beyond a teen’s followers if his or her account is public.
  • Private messaging is now an option. Instagram Direct allows users to send “private messages” to up to 15 mutual friends. These pics don’t show up on their public feeds. Although there’s nothing wrong with group chat, kids may be more likely to share inappropriate stuff with their inner circles. Also, strangers can send private messages to users; kids then choose to open the message and view or discard the attached picture.
  • Mature content can slip in. The terms of service specify that users should be at least 13 years old and shouldn’t post partially nude or sexually suggestive photos — but they don’t address violence, swear words, or drugs.

3. Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the pictures and videos they send before they disappear.

Why it’s popular
Snapchat’s creators intended the app’s fleeting images to be a way for teens to share fun, light moments without the risk of having them go public. And that’s what most teens use it for: sending goofy or embarrassing photos to one another. Snapchats also seem to send and load much “faster” than email or text.

What parents need to know

  • Many schools have yet to block it, which is one reason why teens like it so much (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2013).
  • It’s a myth that Snapchats go away forever. Data is data: Whenever an image is sent, it never truly goes away. (For example, the person on the receiving end can take a screenshot of the image before it disappears.) Snapchats can even be recovered. After a major hack in December 2013 and a settlement with the FTC, Snapchat has clarified their privacy policy, but teens should stay wary.
  • It can make sexting seem OK. The seemingly risk-free messaging might encourage users to share pictures containing inappropriate content.

4. Tumblr is like a cross between a blog and Twitter: It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or “tumblelogs,” that can be seen by anyone online (if made public).

Why it’s popular
Many teens have tumblrs for personal use — sharing photos, videos, musings, and things they find funny with their friends. Tumblelogs with funny memes and gifs often go viral online, as well (case in point: “Texts from Hillary“).

What parents need to know

  • Porn is easy to find. This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes raunchy. Pornographic images and videos, depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.
  • Privacy can be guarded, but only through an awkward workaround. The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the Internet. Members who desire full privacy have to create a second profile, which they’re able to password protect.
  • Posts are often copied and shared. Reblogging on Tumblr is similar to re-tweeting: A post that’s reblogged from one tumblelog then appears on another. Many teens like — and in fact, want — their posts reblogged. But do you really want your kids’ words and photos on someone else’s page?

5. Google+ is Google’s social network, which is now open to teens. It has attempted to improve on Facebook’s friend concept — using “circles” that give users more control about what they share with whom.

Why it’s popular
Teens aren’t wild about Google+ yet. But many feel that their parents are more accepting of it because they associate it with schoolwork. One popular aspect of Google+ is the addition of real-time video chats in Hangouts (virtual gatherings with approved friends), and some schools may use Google Docs for classroom assignments.

What parents need to know

  • Teens can limit who sees certain posts by using “circles.” Friends, acquaintances, and the general public can all be placed in different circles. If you’re friends with your kid on Google+, know that you may be in a different “circle” than their friends (and therefore seeing different information).
  • Google+ takes teens’ safety seriously. Google+ created age-appropriate privacy default settings for any users whose registration information shows them to be teens. It also automatically reminds them about who may be seeing their posts (if they’re posting on public or extended circles).
  • Data tracking and targeting are concerns. Google+ activity (what you post and search for and who you connect with) is shared across Google services including Gmail and YouTube. This information is used for targeting ads to the user. Users can’t opt out of this type of sharing across Google services.

6. Vine is a social media app that lets users post and watch looping six-second video clips. This Twitter-owned service has developed a unique community of people who post videos that are often creative and funny — and sometimes thought-provoking.

Why it’s popular
Videos run the gamut from stop-motion clips of puzzles doing and undoing themselves to six-second skits showing how a teen wakes up on a school day vs. a day during summer. Teens usually use Vine to create and share silly videos of themselves and/or their friends and family.

What parents need to know

  • It’s full of inappropriate videos. In three minutes of random searching, we came across a clip full of full-frontal male nudity, a woman in a fishnet shirt with her breasts exposed, and people blowing marijuana smoke into each other’s mouths. There’s a lot of funny, clever expression on Vine, but much of it isn’t appropriate for kids.
  • There are significant privacy concerns. The videos you post, the accounts you follow, and the comments you make on videos are all public by default. But you can adjust your settings to protect your posts; only followers will see them, and you have to approve new followers.
  • Parents can be star performers (without knowing). If your teens film you being goofy or silly, you may want to talk about whether they plan to share it.

7. Wanelo (Want, Need, Love) combines shopping, fashion blogging, and social networking all in one. It’s very popular among teens, allowing them to discover, share, and buy products they like.

Why it’s popular
Teens keep up with the latest styles by browsing Wanelo’s “trending” feed, which aggregates the items that are most popular across the site. They can also cultivate their own style through the “My Feed” function, which displays content from the users, brands, and stores they follow.

What parents need to know

  • If you like it, you can buy it. Users can purchase almost anything they see on Wanelo by clicking through to products’ original sites. As one user tweeted, “#Wanelo you can have all of my money! #obsessed.”
  • Brand names are prominent. Upon registering, users are required to follow at least three “stores” (for example, Forever21 or Marc Jacobs) and at least three “people” (many are other everyday people in Wanelo’s network, but there are also publications like Seventeenmagazine).
  • There’s plenty of mature clothing. You may not love what kids find and put on their wish lists. Wanelo could lead to even more arguments over what your teen can and can’t wear.

8. Kik Messenger is an app-based alternative to standard texting that kids use for social networking. It’s free to use but has lots of ads.

Why it’s popular
It’s fast and has no message limits, character limits, or fees if you just use the basic features, making it decidedly more fun in many ways than SMS texting.

What parents need to know

  • It’s too easy to “copy all.” Kik’s ability to link to other Kik-enabled apps within itself is a way to drive “app adoption” (purchases) from its users for developers. The app also encourages new registrants to invite everyone in their phone’s address book to join Kik, since users can only message those who also have the app.
  • There’s some stranger danger. An app named OinkText, linked to Kik, allows communication with strangers who share their Kik usernames to find people to chat with. There’s also a Kik community blog where users can submit photos of themselves and screenshots of messages (sometimes displaying users’ full names) to contests.
  • It uses real names. Teens’ usernames identify them on Kik, so they shouldn’t use their full real name as their username.

9. Oovoo is a free video, voice, and messaging app. Users can have group chats with up to 12 people for free. (The premium version removes ads from the service.)

Why it’s popular
Teens mostly use Oovoo to hang out with friends. Many log on after school and keep it up while doing homework. Oovoo can be great for group studying and it makes it easy for kids to receive “face to face” homework help from classmates.

What parents need to know

  • You can only chat with approved friends. Users can only communicate with those on their approved “contact list,” which can help ease parents’ safety concerns.
  • It can be distracting. Because the service makes video chatting so affordable and accessible, it can also be addicting. A conversation with your kids about multitasking may be in order.
  • Kids still prefer in-person communication. Though apps like Oovoo make it easier than ever to video chat with friends, research shows that kids still value face-to-face conversations over online ones — especially when it comes to sensitive topics. Still, they sometimes find it hard to log off when all of their friends are on.

10. Yik Yak is a free, location-aware, social-networking app that lets users post “anything and everything” anonymously through brief, Twitter-like comments, which are distributed to the geographically nearest 500 people who are also signed in to the app. 

Why it’s popular
Kids can find out opinions, secrets, rumors, and more. Plus, they’ll get the bonus thrill of knowing all these have come from a 1.5-mile radius (maybe even from the kids at the desks in front of them!).

What parents need to know

  • It reveals your location. By default, exactly where you are is shown unless you toggle location sharing off. Each time you open the app, GPS updates your location.
  • It’s a mixed bag of trouble. This app has it all: cyberbullying, explicit sexual content, unintended location sharing, and exposure to explicit information about drugs and alcohol.
  • Some schools have banned access. Some teens have used the app to threaten others, causing school lockdowns and more. Its gossipy and sometimes cruel nature can be toxic to a high school environment, so administrators are cracking down.

11. Ask.fm is a social site that lets kids ask questions and answer those posted by other users — sometimes anonymously.

Why it’s popular
Although there are some friendly interactions on Ask.fm — Q&As about favorite foods or crushes, for example — there are lots of mean comments and some creepy sexual posts. This iffy content is part of the site’s appeal for teens.

What parents need to know

(Back to top)


12. WhatsApp lets users send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message limits or fees.

Why it’s popular
The price is right; for teens who have a hard time keeping within the limits of a standard texting plan, the ability to send unlimited messages for free is a definite bonus.

What parents need to know

  • It’s for users 16 and over. Lots of younger teens seem to be using the app, but this age minimum has been set by WhatsApp.
  • It can be pushy. After you sign up, it automatically connects you to all the people in your address book who also are using WhatsApp. Beyond that, the app often encourages you to add friends who haven’t yet signed up.
  • Kids may need some limits. Although unlimited texting may save you cash, capping kids’ communication can help them stay focused on the more important transmissions.

13. Omegle is a chat site (and app) that puts two strangers together in their choice of a text chat or video chat room.

Why it’s popular
Being anonymous can be very attractive to teens, and Omegle provides a no-fuss opportunity to make connections. Its “interest boxes” also let users filter potential chat partners by shared interests.

What parents need to know

  • Users get paired up with strangers. That’s the whole premise of the app. And there’s no registration required.
  • This is NOT an app for kids and teens. Omegle is filled with people searching for sexual chat. Some prefer to do so live. Others offer links to porn sites.
  • Language is a big issue. Since the chats are anonymous, they’re often much more explicit than those with a user who can be identified might be.

14. Yo. is a bare-bones social app that sends a short text message to friends and family, simply reading “Yo” (and speaking the word aloud). That’s it.

Why it’s popular
This admittedly silly concept has taken off big-time since the app’s release in mid-2014. Although it may not seem like much, this single word has the potential to let friends and family know you’re thinking of them and just wanted to say, you know, “Yo.”

What parents need to know

  • It’s relatively harmless — but watch out for hackers. The app’s simple design and explosive popularity has made it a target for hackers.
  • Yo. may be a flash in the pan. Although your kid may be obsessed with sending “yo” greetings to everyone in her address book today, tomorrow could be a different story, as apps like this tend to have a shorter lifespan.

15. Whisper is a social “confessional” app that allows users to post whatever’s on their minds, paired with an image.

Why it’s popular 
With all the emotions running through teens, anonymous outlets give them freedom to share their feelings without fear of judgment.

What parents need to know

  • Whispers are often sexual in nature. Some users use the app to try to hook up with someone nearby, while others post “confessions” of desire. Lots of eye-catching nearly nude pics accompany these shared secrets.
  • Content can be dark. People normally don’t confess sunshine and rainbows; common Whisper topics include insecurity, depression, substance abuse, and various lies told to employers and teachers.
  • Although it’s anonymous to start, it may not stay that way. The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the “Meet Up” section.

The bottom line for most of these tools? If teens are using them respectfully, appropriately, and with a little parental guidance, they should be fine. Take inventory of your kids’ apps and review the best practices.

Websites Editor Polly Conway contributed to this story.

Docs to parents: Limit kids’ texts, tweets, online

 

AP News

Oct 28, 10:19 AM (ET)

By LINDSEY TANNER

 

(AP) In this Oct. 24, 2013 photo, Amy Risinger, right, watches her son Mark Risinger, 16, at their home…
Full Image

CHICAGO (AP) – Doctors 2 parents: Limit kids’ tweeting, texting & keep smartphones, laptops out of bedrooms. (hash)goodluckwiththat.

The recommendations are bound to prompt eye-rolling and LOLs from many teens but an influential pediatricians group says parents need to know that unrestricted media use can have serious consequences.

It’s been linked with violence, cyberbullying, school woes, obesity, lack of sleep and a host of other problems. It’s not a major cause of these troubles, but “many parents are clueless” about the profound impact media exposure can have on their children, said Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the new American Academy of Pediatrics policy

“This is the 21st century and they need to get with it,” said Strasburger, a University of New Mexico adolescent medicine specialist.

Under the new policy, those two hours include using the Internet for entertainment, including Facebook, Twitter, TV and movies; online homework is an exception.The policy is aimed at all kids, including those who use smartphones, computers and other Internet-connected devices. It expands the academy’s longstanding recommendations on banning televisions from children’s and teens’ bedrooms and limiting entertainment screen time to no more than two hours daily.

The policy statement cites a 2010 report that found U.S. children aged 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours daily using some kind of entertainment media. Many kids now watch TV online and many send text messages from their bedrooms after “lights out,” including sexually explicit images by cellphone or Internet, yet few parents set rules about media use, the policy says.

“I guarantee you that if you have a 14-year-old boy and he has an Internet connection in his bedroom, he is looking at pornography,” Strasburger said.

The policy notes that three-quarters of kids aged 12 to 17 own cellphones; nearly all teens send text messages, and many younger kids have phones giving them online access.

(AP) In this Oct. 24, 2013 photo, Mark Risinger, 16, checks his Facebook page on his computer as his…
Full Image

“Young people now spend more time with media than they do in school – it is the leading activity for children and teenagers other than sleeping” the policy says.

Mark Risinger, 16, of Glenview, Ill., is allowed to use his smartphone and laptop in his room, and says he spends about four hours daily on the Internet doing homework, using Facebook and YouTube and watching movies.

He said a two-hour Internet time limit “would be catastrophic” and that kids won’t follow the advice, “they’ll just find a way to get around it.”

Strasburger said he realizes many kids will scoff at advice from pediatricians – or any adults.

“After all, they’re the experts! We’re media-Neanderthals to them,” he said. But he said he hopes it will lead to more limits from parents and schools, and more government research on the effects of media.

(AP) In this Oct. 24, 2013 photo, Mark Risinger, 16, checks his smartphone at home in Glenview, Ill….
Full Image

The policy was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics. It comes two weeks after police arrested two Florida girls accused of bullying a classmate who committed suicide. Police say one of the girls recently boasted online about the bullying and the local sheriff questioned why the suspects’ parents hadn’t restricted their Internet use.

Mark’s mom, Amy Risinger, said she agrees with restricting kids’ time on social media but that deciding on other media limits should be up to parents.

“I think some children have a greater maturity level and you don’t need to be quite as strict with them,” said Risinger, who runs a communications consulting firm.

Her 12-year-old has sneaked a laptop into bed a few times and ended up groggy in the morning, “so that’s why the rules are now in place, that that device needs to be in mom and dad’s room before he goes to bed.”

Sara Gorr, a San Francisco sales director and mother of girls, ages 13 and 15, said she welcomes the academy’s recommendations.

Her girls weren’t allowed to watch the family’s lone TV until a few years ago. The younger one has a tablet, and the older one has a computer and smartphone, and they’re told not to use them after 9 p.m.

“There needs to be more awareness,” Gorr said. “Kids are getting way too much computer time. It’s bad for their socialization, it’s overstimulating, it’s numbing them.”

Selfie-Loathing: Instagram is even more depressing than Facebook

Slate

By |Posted Tuesday, July 23, 2013, at 12:27 PM

Joyful woman in bikini runs to the sea

You know you want this life.
Photo by Soft_Light/iStockphoto

It’s a truism that Facebook is the many-headed frenemy, the great underminer. We know this because science tells us so. The Human–Computer Institute at Carnegie Mellon has found that your “passive consumption” of your friends’ feeds and your own “broadcasts to wider audiences” on Facebook correlate with feelings of loneliness and even depression. Earlier this year, two German universities showed that “passive following” on Facebook triggers states of envy and resentment in many users, with vacation photos standing out as a prime trigger. Yet another study, this one of 425 undergrads in Utah, carried the self-explanatory title “ ‘They Are Happier and Having Better Lives Than I Am’: The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others’ Lives.” Even the positive effects of Facebook can be double-edged: Viewing your profile can increase your self-esteem, but it also lowers your ability to ace a serial subtraction task.

All of these studies are careful to point out that it’s not Facebook per se that inspires states of disconnection, jealousy, and poor mathematical performance—rather, it’s specific uses of Facebook. If you primarily use Facebook to share interesting news articles with colleagues, exchange messages with new acquaintances, and play Candy Crush Saga, chances are the green-eyed monster won’t ask to friend you. But if the hours you log on Facebook are largely about creeping through other people’s posts—especially their photos, and especially-especially their vacation snaps—with an occasional pause to update your own status and slap on a grudging “like” here or there, then science confirms that you have entered into a semi-consensual sadomasochistic relationship with Facebook and need to break the cycle.

A closer look at Facebook studies also supports an untested but tantalizing hypothesis: that, despite all the evidence, Facebook is actually not the greatest underminer at the social-media cocktail party (that you probably weren’t invited to, but you saw the picturesand it looked incredible). Facebook is not the frenemy with the most heads. That title, in fact, goes to Instagram. Here’s why.

Instagram distills the most crazy-making aspects of the Facebook experience.

So far, academic studies of Instagram’s effects on our emotional states are scarce. But it’s tempting to extrapolate those effects from the Facebook studies, because out of the many activities Facebook offers, the three things that correlate most strongly with a self-loathing screen hangover are basically the three things that Instagram is currently for: loitering around others’ photos, perfunctory like-ing, and “broadcasting” to a relatively amorphous group. “I would venture to say that photographs, likes, and comments are the aspects of the Facebook experience that are most important in driving the self-esteem effects, and that photos are maybe the biggest driver of those effects,” says Catalina Toma of the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “You could say that Instagram purifies this one aspect of Facebook.”

Instagram is exclusively image-driven, and images will crack your mirror.

“You get more explicit and implicit cues of people being happy, rich, and successful from a photo than from a status update,” says Hanna Krasnova of Humboldt University Berlin, co-author of the study on Facebook and envy. “A photo can very powerfully provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger feelings of inferiority. You don’t envy a news story.”

Krasnova’s research has led her to define what she calls an “envy spiral” peculiar to social media. “If you see beautiful photos of your friend on Instagram,” she says, “one way to compensate is to self-present with even better photos, and then your friend sees your photos and posts even better photos, and so on. Self-promotion triggers more self-promotion, and the world on social media gets further and further from reality.” Granted, an envy spiral can unspool just as easily on Facebook or Twitter. But for a truly gladiatorial battle of the selfies, Instagram is the only rightful Colosseum. 

Instagram messes more with your sense of time.

“You spend so much time creating flattering, idealized images of yourself, sorting through hundreds of images for that one perfect picture, but you don’t necessarily grasp that everybody else is spending a lot of time doing the same thing.” Toma says. Then, after spending lots of time carefully curating and filtering your images, you spend even more time staring at other people’s carefully curated and filtered images that you assume they didn’t spend much time on. And the more you do that, Toma says, “the more distorted your perception is that their lives are happier and more meaningful than yours.” Again, this happens all the time on Facebook, but because Instagram is image-based, it creates a purer reality-distortion field.

Instagram ups your chances of violating “the gray line of stalkerism.”

“If you don’t know someone, and Facebook is telling you that you have interests in common,” says Nicole Ellison of the University of Michigan School of Information, “you can see their profile as a list of icebreakers.” But that same profile is also a potential list of icemakers. If you meet a vague acquaintance at a party and strike up a conversation about a science article he posted to his Facebook wall, that probably seems normal. If you meet a vague acquaintance at a party and strike up a conversation about the eco-lodge he chose for his honeymoon in the Maldives, he will likely back away from you slowly. “And then,” Ellison says, “you’ve violated the gray line of stalkerism.” Instagram’s image-driven format gives you the eco-lodge but not the science article.

And arguably, you’ve violated the gray line of stalkerism simply by looking at those photos in the first place, even if you don’t reveal yourself in public as the sad lurker that you are. Each time you swipe through more images of people’s meals and soirees and renovation projects and holiday sunsets, you are potentially blurring the boundary between stranger-you-haven’t-met and sleazy voyeur skulking around the cabana with an iPhone. To be sure, daily acts of stalkerism are all but part of the social contract at this point. But stalkerism heavily diluted with links to articles, one-on-one messaging, Dr. Oz ads, and second cousins who still play FarmVille will always seem more palatable than the uncut version.

Warning: Negative Social Networking via Ask.fm

Pupils and parents warned over social networking website linked to teen abuse

  • Schools across the country are sending out letters advising pupils not to use Ask.fm
  • Site lets anyone see details of boys and girls as young as 13, then post comments or questions
  • There is no way to report offensive comments
  • Has become linked to a number of recent teen suicides

By MARTIN BECKFORD

PUBLISHED: 21:03 EST, 12 January 2013

Pupils and parents are being warned by head teachers about the dangers of a rapidly growing social networking site that puts teenagers at risk of vicious anonymous abuse.

Schools across the country are sending out letters advising pupils not to use Ask.fm, which has more than 30 million users around the world and has been linked to suicides and serious bullying.

The website lets anyone see the names, photographs and personal details of boys and girls as young as 13, then post comments or questions on their profile pages that range from insults to sexual advances and threats of violence.

Warning: Pupils and parents are being told about the dangers of a rapidly growing social networking site that puts teenagers at risk of anonymous abuseWarning: Pupils and parents are being told about the dangers of a rapidly growing social networking site that puts teenagers at risk of anonymous abuse

Unlike other services such as Facebook and Twitter, there is no way to report offensive comments, increase privacy settings or find out who is behind anonymous bullying.

The website is based in Latvia, making it even more difficult for police to take action, while its owners dismiss any problems with the site as the result of British and Irish children being more cruel than those from other countries.

Jim Gamble, head of security consultancy Ineqe, said: ‘Ask.fm has become associated with some of the worst forms of cyberbullying and has been linked to a number of recent teen suicides in Ireland and the US.

‘It is almost a stalker’s paradise. In cases like this young people need protection from those who exploit internet anonymity to intimidate, isolate and bully.’

Uncontrolled: Unlike other services such as Facebook and Twitter, there is no way to report offensive comments, increase privacy settings or find out who is behind anonymous bullyingUncontrolled: Unlike other services such as Facebook and Twitter, there is no way to report offensive comments or find out who is behind anonymous bullying

Richard Piggin, deputy chief executive of the charity BeatBullying, said: ‘The tool that enables it to be anonymous can facilitate young people to say things that they might not say face to face or if their names were attached to it. So it releases their inhibitions, which can be very dangerous.

‘Sites like Ask.fm lack even the most basic child safety mechanisms or reporting protocols. They are of huge concern to us and the young people we work with.’

Founder Mark Terebin said: ‘We only have this situation in Ireland and the UK most of all. It seems that children are more cruel in these countries.’

 

Should You Be Facebook Friends with Your Teen?

An Article by Dr. Roni Sandler Cohen-Sandler
These days, as more and more adults are finding their way on social media (some even before their young children or tweens), families are facing increasing dilemmas. If your kids are now on Facebook, you may well be grappling with the issue of whether to be Facebook friends with them, or its corollary, whether to accept friend requests from your teens’ pals. To gather more information about this subject, I consulted experts—that is, millennials in their twenties. After much discussion, I learned what might motivate parents—and sometimes teens—to be Facebook friends as well as a multitude of advantages, disadvantages, and complications of doing so. It behooves all adults to consider the issues extremely thoughtfully before either friending (i.e., asking to be Facebook friends with) or accepting friend requests from our own teens and, above all, their peers.

Your Kid Wants to Friend YOU?

Although this might surprise you, some teens and tweens who in real life shun conversation with their mothers and fathers actually do friend request their parents. These kids are not desperate to tally up more Facebook friends; one possibility is that they’re in the habit of friending everyone and haven’t specifically excluded their parents. Given how differently friendship is defined on Facebook, this might inspire you to have a discussion with your teen about what constitutes a friend and why it’s important to be discriminating about one’s friends online. While being Facebook friends isn’t the same as being real life friends, it isn’t nothing, either; online friends may have the opportunity to see your teens’ information, including who their friends are, and to write on their walls and send them posts that others might see.

If your teen sends you a friend request, it might also be because Facebook offers a vehicle for greater connection, perhaps more easily or comfortably than face-to-face communication. It’s the same reason why many families send texts or emails for things that are hard to say in person. Maybe your son just wants you to be aware of what music he’s listening to or your daughter is interested in showing you what her friends are writing on her wall. Of course, you don’t need to be Facebook friends with your kids to see this; you can simply ask them to log in to their accounts and show you what’s on the screen themselves. But by giving you the right to see whatever information is out there, it can be a way to get desired validation or earn your trust. Also, consider the possibility that your teen may also want to use the Book to monitor what you`re up to; the access granted on Facebook can be a two-way street.

Why You Want to Friend Your Kid

If being Facebook friends with your teen is your idea—perhaps even a requirement for your son or daughter to sign up for their own account—it’s wise to think carefully about your motivations. What are you hoping to accomplish? Here are some of parents’ most common goals:

• Keeping tabs on your teens’ connections
• Monitoring their social activities
• Being cool
• Showing how much you care about them
• Getting external validation from other Facebook users
• Joining the younger generation
• Learning more about the Book to better advise your teens how to use it responsibly

For divorced parents, Facebook can be a great way to remain an active part of kids’ lives by posting or viewing photos and videos on each other’s walls. Although many teens would be horrified, as they mature into young adulthood apparently the stigma of family pictures gradually fades and even takes on greater cache.

Potential Implications

• Increases trust. Facebook is a porthole through which you can view your teen’s social life, if they allow you. Especially during high school, when presumably teens are given a longer leash, you can allay some of your fears about their greater autonomy by learning more about what they’re doing. It’s also more compelling to see their social life in photos as opposed to merely hearing about it. When it comes to the adolescent social world, a picture may in fact be worth a thousand words (unless information is misconstrued—see below).

• Provides proof. If called upon, Facebook can provide evidence of kids’ whereabouts; the tags on their own and their friends’ photos are stamped with where they are, the name of the people they are socializing with, and the date and time when events took place. (Note: According to my experts, however, this is not foolproof, as tags may be faked by kids who know their parents will be checking.)

• Exposes lies. On the other hand, access to Facebook pages can backfire. When kids try to deceive you—say, by denying they attended a forbidden concert or house party, Facebook can just as easily expose their lies. Then you have to be prepared to deal with the fallout, which may include shattered trust and its effects on your relationship with your teen.

• Illuminates potential problems. Being Facebook friends with your teen gives you the chance to see suggestive or inappropriate posts and tags—and, therefore, to address them immediately. Chances are, if you believe something inappropriate or illegal was going on, other people will too. If your teen protests that photos are innocent, it’s important to point out that their teachers, coaches, and friends’ parents also can get the wrong impression. The burden of privacy should be on your teen; they must learn to limit certain people’s access to their Facebook (e.g., excluding them from seeing photos). You’re thereby teaching critical lessons that can save your teen from later embarrassment or worse when future employers Google them.

What About Friending Your Teens’ Friends?

Here is where issues get much thornier. In my view, the biggest concern is whether friending your kids’ friends intrudes upon natural boundaries and therefore interferes with their social development. As they separate and individuate from their families during adolescence, teens’ peer relationships become increasingly important. When you were a teen, you probably spent hours chatting with friends on the phone or hanging out in someone’s basement, where you carved out your own social world away from the prying eyes of adults. Facebook, with its goal of facilitating connections, makes it harder to maintain boundaries between adults and teens (and also between adults’ personal and business worlds, but that is another story). Consider these issues before accepting friend requests from your teens’ peers:

• Are you really friends? On Facebook, the term friend is used to describe all contacts. But ask yourself if you are friends with your child`s friend in real life. Chances are, the answer is no. If you wouldn’t phone or text your teen’s buddy, being Facebook friends might violate that same boundary. Reading what your children’s friends post to their walls is not all that different from your parents picking up the home telephone when you were a teen and joining your conversations with your friends.

• Awkwardness—or worse—can ensue. When Facebook friends cross generational and/or gender lines, lines of propriety may become blurred. For example, a father becoming Facebook friends with his teen daughter’s best girlfriend could well be seen as inappropriate, make people uncomfortable, or cause teens to declare, “That’s just weird” or “Creepy!” Plus, what if your teen has a falling out with the friend? Are you obligated to unfriend her? And if you do, what meaning would that have? You could also create an awkward situation for your teens if you friend request one of their friends who is unsure about accepting, doesn’t want to accept, or even feels obligated to accept. That teen could become uncomfortable about coming over to your house—either while your friend request is dangling or after making a decision about it.

• Everybody knows. Whatever you do on Facebook, realize that everyone knows. Unless you change the default setting, all Facebook users can see who your friends are. Imagine how you would feel if everyone could see the entire Contacts folder on your computer or cell phone.

• What to do with info? When you’re Facebook friends with your kids’ friends, you may see something on one of their pages that concerns or even alarms you. You’re then in the position of struggling with what to do about it. Is this something you should tell the child’s parents? Do you keep quiet? How will this affect your relationship with your own teen? Knowledge you gain unwittingly on Facebook can become an unwelcome burden.

• If in doubt… While some parents automatically accept friend requests for fear of hurting teens’ feelings, first consider the implications. If in doubt, discuss your dilemma with your teens. They may have wise advice. You can turn down friend requests from your teens’ peers politely simply by saying you have a policy against it, but look forward to talking to them whenever they visit your home.

Consider This

As you’re weighing the pros and cons of Facebook friending your teen, there are several other important considerations. You may jeopardize your relationship—and for good reason. For teens Facebook feels private because they can choose whom they friend and don’t friend as well as whose access to their posts and photos they limit. This gives them a much desired sense of control. Parents becoming Facebook friends with them is an intrusion into their social world. Think about how you behave while chauffeuring a carload of teens. As you drive, you probably remain quiet because you respect their right to have a conversation amongst themselves. Plus, you know that butting in would put a screeching halt to your chance of learning anything.

The same courtesy and common sense could well be applied to Facebook. Asking to see your son’s profile or inviting your daughter to show you wherever she’s tagged in her friends’ photos are much like politely knocking on their bedroom doors before entering—whether or not their friends are over. (Note: An exception might be requiring teen to show you their allegedly inappropriate photos on Facebook that another parent alerted you to…)

In addition, because the parental generation is usually less savvy than our teens about social media, we should proceed cautiously to avoid making grave mistakes. Facebook makes it all too easy for us to embarrass ourselves; constantly changing rules and privacy settings are notoriously difficult to keep up with, even for the most avid users. Unless you’re a Facebook expert, you may not realize you’re making decisions that place you at risk for potentially awkward—and often irreparable—errors. Since one of the main roles of parenting is teaching kids to use technology responsibly, you’ll definitely want to avoid this unfortunate possibility.

_________________________________________

So recognize what you do and don’t know about Facebook. Your teens are probably more knowledgeable about some things, such as knowing how to create separate classes of friends with different privacy settings, how to untag photos, and how to turn on the setting that allows photos to be tagged only after they are reviewed and approved. You might ask them to teach you these valuable skills. But you know things, too, which enable you to be helpful to your teens. For example, you know it’s important for kids to think carefully about whom they friend—and, just as important, whose friend requests they shouldn’t accept. You know to question whether, if they do accept certain people’s friend requests, they should adjust their settings to limit access to their pages (e.g., “Your teachers? Tutors? Future employers? Grandma?”). You know how to help kids evaluate which posts or pictures could be misconstrued or damaging. In the end, partnering with your teens to use Facebook sensibly may be wiser than being Facebook friends with them.