The Latest Teen Instagram Challenge Parents Need to Know About

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Last month it was the #CharlieCharlieChallenge. Before that it was the #KylieJennerLipChallenge. And now? The #BellyButtonChallenge.

It seems as though there is a new hashtag-labelled, social media challenge happening each month.

Teenagers are most likely to participate in and spread these social media challenges in part because of their age, which makes them prone to experiment, and in part because of their deep relationship with social media. Teens are connected and curious – a perfect storm for a hashtagged challenge.

Some of them are mostly harmless – as was the case with the #CharlieCharlieChallenge. The #CharlieCharlieChallenge mirrored popular slumber party games (like Ouija boards) and ghost stories from days past, with a social media twist.

Other hashtagged challenges are a little more insidious, as was the case with last year’s #CinnamonChallenge that took off on YouTube, hospitalizing several participants, and the more recent instagram fueled #KylieJennerLipChallenge and #KylieJennerChallenge which at last look have yielded over 200,000 posts, many involving tweens and teens engaging in risky behavior.

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The #KylieJennerChallenge encouraged participants to create full lips like Kylie Jenner’s by using a shot glass and suction to induce swelling. This experiment had several challenge participants seeking medical attention after causing themselves serious injury.

The latest – the #BellyButtonChallenge, presents a risk because it invites participants to test themselves (presumably a test of weight and fitness) to see whether they can wrap and arm behind their back, around their waist and still touch their belly button. In fact this is more a test of flexibility and arm length, than fitness.

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Medical experts have warned against #TheBellyButtonChallenge being a tipping factor for teens at risk of an eating disorder, and for that reason, parents need to know about it.

These internet challenges seem to cycle monthly and it’s easy for a parent to be left in the dark.

If you are curious about a hashtag your teenage has used or told you about their friends, or people that they follow using, do a little research. You can get a free snapshot of a hashtag’s recent use at sites like Hashtracking.com.

But more importantly, you should be talking to your teens and preteens about hashtagged challenges on social media. It’s important to have conversations now, and continue to check in frequently if your kids are active on social media platforms. Silly human tricks, and faddish trends come and go, but you want to stay on top of anything that is potentially dangerous!

In case you are wondering – I completely failed the #BellyButtonChallenge. But when the #TouchYourNoseWithYourTongue one goes viral, I’m sure to rule again!

Disclosure: I am a founder of Hashtracking.com, which explains my obsession with hashtags. This post contains my opinions and is not sponsored in any way

The College Twitter Happiness Index can help students

The Washington Post

Here’s an interesting Washington Post opinion piece from CSH Jr. Grace Isford, a former CSH Middle School student!

By Grace Isford, Published: December 27

Grace Isford is a high school junior in Greenwich, Conn.

The college hype machine is overwhelming. So I decided to bypass the sugar-coated information of tour guides, review books and even adults seeking to help — and instead harness social media to slice through the conventional wisdom.

As a tour guide at my high school, I know that tours convey only surface information.Adults exacerbate the problem by telling students which schools are best despite having limited information and relying primarily on institutions’ reputations. And books on collegesuse simplistic labels such as “party” or “suicide” schools, catch-all terms that attract or deter students for the wrong reasons.

Twitter is a good way to get a sense of what the general public thinks about a particular topic. So I searched tweets about a number of well-known schools and divided the results into three general categories: positive, negative and neutral.

The six schools I chose to study — not necessarily ones to which I plan to apply next year — range from large state schools to private research universities. Many have entrenched reputations that veer to extremes.

The results were surprising.

To tabulate my College Twitter Happiness Index, I compiled a pool of 100 unique tweets from public personal accounts mentioning each university. To calculate the percentage of happy students at a college, I added positive tweets, subtracted negative ones and discounted neutral tweets.

There is, to be certain, a subjective element in determining whether a particular tweet is positive or negative. But Twitter is not a medium known for subtlety, and the distinctions usually are clear.

The University of Chicago is often said to be a school “where fun goes to die.” Yet my College Twitter Happiness Index registered 70 percent happy for the university. As one University of Chicago student wrote, “I am seriously so in-love with this school. #UChicago.” I found a similarly unexpected outcome at Cornell University, which has a reputation for exceedingly pressured students and was the subject of media attention in 2010 for student suicides. Yet my calculations pegged the school’s happiness index at a robust 58 percent. My calculations for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a school often stereotyped to have a less-than-vibrant social life, found the student happiness index to be 67 percent. Party on!

Conversely, universities with reputations for being “party schools” seemed to produce unhappier students. For example, the University of Southern California , where students bask in the Golden State sun, came in at 46 percent. One USC student tweeted, “So much studying #USC #Stressed.” Similarly, the University of Colorado had a 43 percent happiness index. And by my calculations, the University of Florida, a.k.a. Party Central, had a happiness index of only 39 percent.

Perhaps the University of Chicago, the place where fun supposedly goes to die, actually creates a much happier environment than do party schools such as USC or Florida. Students who attend the University of Chicago may be happier because they work harder at engaging subjects, or perhaps many of them merely use Twitter as a means of positive expression.

Whatever the reason for the disparities between public perceptions of colleges and the reality on campus, prospective students ought to be careful. Teenagers shouldn’t let the influence of the college hype machine dictate where they apply because a school cannot be accurately assessed from tour guides, rankings and know-it-all adults. It’s better to make decisions based on where students actually are happiest.

I’m only one high school student, but tools such as my College Twitter Happiness Index are a way to cut through the clutter.

They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets.

The New York Times

John-Patrick Thomas

 

By 
Published: November 9, 2013 

At Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me., admissions officers are still talking about the high school senior who attended a campus information session last year for prospective students. Throughout the presentation, she apparently posted disparaging comments on Twitter about her fellow attendees, repeatedly using a common expletive.

Perhaps she hadn’t realized that colleges keep track of their social media mentions.

“It was incredibly unusual and foolish of her to do that,” Scott A. Meiklejohn, Bowdoin’s dean of admissions and financial aid, told me last week. The college ultimately denied the student admission, he said, because her academic record wasn’t competitive. But had her credentials been better, those indiscreet posts could have scuttled her chances.

“We would have wondered about the judgment of someone who spends their time on their mobile phone and makes such awful remarks,” Mr. Meiklejohn said.

As certain high school seniors work meticulously this month to finish their early applications to colleges, some may not realize that comments they casually make online could negatively affect their prospects. In fact, new research from Kaplan Test Prep, the service owned by the Washington Post Company, suggests that online scrutiny of college hopefuls is growing.

Of 381 college admissions officers who answered a Kaplan telephone questionnaire this year, 31 percent said they had visited an applicant’s Facebook or other personal social media page to learn more about them — a five-percentage-point increase from last year. More crucially for those trying to get into college, 30 percent of the admissions officers said they had discovered information online that had negatively affected an applicant’s prospects.

“Students’ social media and digital footprint can sometimes play a role in the admissions process,” says Christine Brown, the executive director of K-12 and college prep programs at Kaplan Test Prep. “It’s something that is becoming more ubiquitous and less looked down upon.”

In the business realm, employers now vet the online reputations of job candidates as a matter of course. Given the impulsiveness of typical teenagers, however — not to mention the already fraught nature of college acceptances and rejections — the idea that admissions officers would covertly nose around the social media posts of prospective students seems more chilling.

There is some reason for concern. Ms. Brown says that most colleges don’t have formal policies about admissions officers supplementing students’ files with their own online research. If colleges find seemingly troubling material online, they may not necessarily notify the applicants involved.

“To me, it’s a huge problem,” said Bradley S. Shear, a lawyer specializing in social medialaw. For one thing, Mr. Shear told me, colleges might erroneously identify the account of a person with the same name as a prospective student — or even mistake an impostor’s account — as belonging to the applicant, potentially leading to unfair treatment. “Often,” he added, “false and misleading content online is taken as fact.”

These kinds of concerns prompted me last week to email 20 colleges and universities — small and large, private and public, East Coast and West Coast — to ask about their practices. Then I called admissions officials at 10 schools who agreed to interviews.

Each official told me that it was not routine practice at his or her institution for admissions officers to use Google searches on applicants or to peruse their social media posts. Most said their school received so many applications to review — with essays, recommendations and, often, supplemental portfolios — that staff members wouldn’t be able to do extra research online. A few also felt that online investigations might lead to unfair or inconsistent treatment.

“As students’ use of social media is growing, there’s a whole variety of ways that college admissions officers can use it,” Beth A. Wiser, the director of admissions at the University of Vermont, told me. “We have chosen to not use it as part of the process in making admissions decisions.”

Other admissions officials said they did not formally prohibit the practice. In fact, they said, admissions officers did look at online material about applicants on an ad hoc basis. Sometimes prospective students themselves ask an admissions office to look at blogs or videos they have posted; on other occasions, an admissions official might look up an obscure award or event mentioned by an applicant, for purposes of elucidation.

“Last year, we watched some animation videos and we followed media stories about an applicant who was involved in a political cause,” says Will Hummel, an admissions officer at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. But those were rare instances, he says, and the supplemental material didn’t significantly affect the students’ admissions prospects.

Admissions officials also said they had occasionally rejected applicants, or revoked their acceptances, because of online materials. Often, these officials said, a college may learn about a potential problem from an outside source, such as a high school counselor or a graduate, prompting it to look into the matter.

Last year, an undergraduate at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., who had befriended a prospective student on Facebook, notified the admissions office because he noticed that the applicant had posted offensive comments about one of his high school teachers.

“We thought, this is not the kind of person we want in our community,” Angel B. Perez, Pitzer’s dean of admission and financial aid, told me. With about 4,200 applications annually for a first-year class of 250 students, the school can afford to be selective. “We didn’t admit the student,” Mr. Perez said.

But colleges vary in their transparency. While Pitzer doesn’t contact students if their social media activities precluded admission to the school, Colgate University does notify students if they are eliminated from the applicant pool for any reason other than being uncompetitive candidates.

“We should be transparent with applicants,” says Gary L. Ross, Colgate’s dean of admission. He once called a student, to whom Colgate had already offered acceptance, to check whether an alcohol-related incident that was reported online was indeed true. (It was, and Colgate rescinded the offer of admission.)

“We will always ask if there is something we didn’t understand,” Mr. Ross said.

In an effort to help high school students avoid self-sabotage online, guidance counselors are tutoring them in scrubbing their digital identities. At Brookline High School in Massachusetts, juniors are taught to delete alcohol-related posts or photographs and to create socially acceptable email addresses. One junior’s original email address was “bleedingjesus,” said Lenny Libenzon, the school’s guidance department chairman. That changed.

“They imagine admissions officers are old professors,” he said. “But we tell them a lot of admissions officers are very young and technology-savvy.”

Likewise, high school students seem to be growing more shrewd, changing their searchable names on Facebook or untagging themselves in pictures to obscure their digital footprints during the college admission process.

“We know that some students maintain two Facebook accounts,” says Wes K. Waggoner, the dean of undergraduate admission at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

For their part, high school seniors say that sanitizing social media accounts doesn’t seem qualitatively different than the efforts they already make to present the most appealing versions of themselves to colleges. While Megan Heck, 17, a senior at East Lansing High School in Michigan, told me that she was not amending any of her posts as she applied early to colleges this month, many of her peers around the country were.

“If you’ve got stuff online you don’t want colleges to see,” Ms. Heck said, “deleting it is kind of like joining two more clubs senior year to list on your application to try to make you seem more like the person they want at their schools.”

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…
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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…
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“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….
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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.”

Social Media For Girls: The Potential is Explosive

From: The Girl Effect

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR GIRLS: THE POTENTIAL IS EXPLOSIVE

18.02.13 | BY TOPSIE OGUNYADE EGBETOKUN

 

Social media is a powerful tool in today’s world – it connects people across continents and has affected massive social and cultural change. I believe that for girls in particular, the potential it holds is explosive.

Working as a female entrepreneur in Nigeria, I’ve been able to see first-hand how using it smartly is one of the best ways to overcome communication barriers.  This week, I’ll be at Social Media Week Lagos, discussing how social media has the power to change the lives of adolescent girls. As part of the ‘ Mobilize! Social Media For Social Change‘ event hosted by Girl Effect, I’ll be debating how tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have given Nigerian girls the opportunity to use social media to take part in the global development dialogue.

The importance of social media is clear to me. I’m always using platforms like LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook to make contacts, create links and develop relationships with others. Tools like these expand the communication and engagement I have with those around me, giving me the chance to join the right groups, meet the right people and get my voice out there.

Networking with others on LinkedIn is absolutely crucial in my professional life – it gives me the chance to reach out to new projects and opportunities, as well as share my experiences with influential professionals. On a more personal level, using Facebook means that I can connect to old classmates, friends and family, plus keep them up to date with what’s going on in my life on a regular basis.

The same benefits apply to girls, as there are huge opportunities available to them as a result of using social media.

Social media should not just be seen as social networking and having fun. It is fun, but there’s also an art to getting it right, and I think it’s important that girls discover how they can make their communication with the wider world successful. When used effectively, social media gives them a voice, helps create noise around a cause and brings both local and global attention to issues that matter to them.

An example of how this can be done is the youth social media advocacy campaign I am championing, which uses social media to educate, inform and empower young girls. With programmes like these, girls can learn how to use social media to their advantage; be it to further their career, meet influential business people or simply have their voice heard – learning these skills is vital to them.

Social media is also cheaper – a lot cheaper – than the alternatives. You can reach 1,000 people through the power of social media for a fraction of the cost that you can through television or print. It’s also interactive and this two-way relationship is key to the power of social media, and therefore key to the argument for girls using it more.

Through conversations that they can now have with high-level decision makers, NGOs and policy-makers, girls can affect the global agenda for change.

Girls have the potential to be an incredible force in the social media world. By using the technology in the best way possible, they will be able to change their lives and the lives of generations of girls to come.

Tell us how you’re using social media to change the world for girls on Twitter and  Facebook

Find out more about equipping girls to change the world

Follow Social Media Week Lagos using the hash tag #SMWLagos

Find out more about Girl Effect’s session at Social Media Week Lagos

The Internet, As Seen By High Schoolers

Here’s some information on what social media sites teenagers are using.

Executive Tech Editor, The Huffington Post

The Internet, As Seen By High Schoolers
Posted: 01/09/2013 7:08 pm
Kids these days. Just what are they up to online?

Intrigued by one tenth-grader’s musings (via her brother) on trends in the tech world, investor Garry Tan conducted an informal survey of how 1,000 teens and twenty-somethings are using social media.

Among the high-schoolers (aged 13 to 18) and millennials (aged 19 to 25) that answered Tan’s survey, Tumblr > Facebook > Twitter > Instagram > Snapchat, in terms of popularity.

Because “teens love photos, but they hate text,” in the words of FWD’s John Herrman, here’s a picture of the survey results:

social media use teens

Teens used every single social site more than their older peers, and Snapchat and Instagram were nearly twice as popular among high-schoolers than millennials. Thirteen percent of teens reported using Snapchat regularly, while just 4 percent of twenty-somethings did so. Twenty-one percent of users in the younger demographic use Instagram, versus 11 percent in the older demographic.

The survey points to the graying of Facebook: more high-schoolers and millennials are using Tumblr than Facebook (59 percent versus 54 percent). By comparison, just 5 percent of online adults are using Tumblr, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Tan’s survey jives with comScore data from May of last year. Together, Facebook and Tumblr accounted for 90 percent of the time teens spent online.