Teens are leading a new trend away from Facebook and toward a stream of new social media options—some of which have local school officials concerned.
As the popularity of newer, quicker, “cooler” social networks continues to rise, Facebook has seen a dramatic drop in users—6 million in the United States just in the last month—and trends show that the middle- and high-school age demographic is one of the biggest contributors.
Why are teens turning away from Facebook? Because their parents and grandparents are using it -- and watching, commenting on, and monitoring their activity.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily ‘out,’” says Grace, a 14 year-old freshman at West Senior High. “Most of the people my age still have a Facebook, but we’re definitely moving away from it. A lot of our parents have gone on, and all the family is on Facebook now.”
Erin Monigold, owner of TC-based Social Vision Marketing, says statistics validate Grace and her friends. While Facebook usage among teens has dropped, its highest growing group is baby boomers – those 55 and up.
With teens’ shift away from Facebook, a myriad of new social networking apps have continued to pop up. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Vine, Kik, Pheed, and Ask.fm are what local teens say are most popular now, many of which aren’t even in most adults’ lexicons.
Monigold also says one reason the new apps are popular is because they are more visual.
“With the rise of smart phones, people are communicating visually these days, and with all the photo apps out there it has become really easy to create and consume images. I think that’s become a big thing with teens, because they really like to express themselves.”
Of course, with expression among teens comes the possibility for inappropriate behavior or misuse, which is where school officials become concerned.
One of the most controversial apps is Snapchat, a photo-messaging service that now has 350 million users, most of whom are 13-23 year-olds. Snapchat allows users to send photos and videos that self-destruct after (at most) ten seconds, offering a seemingly consequence-free environment. However, it’s possible for recipients to take “screen shots” of received images, saving photos that might have otherwise been deleted.
A recent Central High School newsletter alerted parents to some of the new media—including Snapchat—suggesting that parents should be aware of what their students are using, and for what purposes.
Across town at West Senior High, Principal Joe Tibaldi agrees that parents should be made aware of what’s new, and that students should be educated in social media’s consequences.
“I think social media can be beneficial, depending on how it’s used,” Tibaldi says. “But some are riskier than others, so we try to educate students about the ramifications. We plan to have a parent meeting again this year on social media to let parents know how they can monitor it better.”
For most teens, new types of social media are simply another way to have fun and connect with friends.
“Honestly, for me, Snapchat is me and my friends making ugly faces at each other to be funny. I haven’t noticed anyone in my age group using it for anything inappropriate,” says Grace.
Ultimately, says Monigold, whether it’s Facebook or any of its competitors, social media will continue to change, becoming a natural part of communication to which all demographics will have to adjust.
“Social media is constantly evolving; it’s really the nature of the beast.”