So now that all of the adults have shown up on Facebook, parents might need to look elsewhere to find their children on social media.
Think of bees buzzing around a hive as a good metaphor to describe teens' relationship with social media and other sites where they connect online, away from parents' eyes.
As soon as the grown-ups arrive on a given site, teens and preteens will swarm to a new one. But it's not impossible to know where they are. By asking questions, understanding the sites and joining them, parents can figure out ways to protect their children from cyberbullying, inappropriate and suggestive behavior, etc., as they migrate from service to service.
“You don't need to know the ins and outs of every app and site that's ‘hot' right now,” writes Kelly Schryver, senior content specialist for Common Sense Media, in her blog post “11 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to After Facebook” at commonsensemedia.org. “But knowing the basics — what they are, why they're popular and the problems that can crop up when they're not used responsibly — can make the difference between a positive and negative experience for your kids.”
Refer to a story in The Oklahoman today by my colleague Tim Willert for information about cyberbullying trends among kids who use these sites. But here's a quick primer on where the teens and preteens have gone beyond Facebook:
For starters, they're using Instagram, a site that I love sharing and enjoy, from a photography standpoint, with my children. Posting photos to Instagram and going on photo walks to take them have made Instagram a fun, creative activity that we do together.
Many of today's teens use Instagram to link to their ask.fm profile, a website and mobile app that lets people pose anonymous questions to them. At its best, they're answering questions on this site about latest crushes or activities; at its worst, the site features mean comments, suggestive language and horrible gossip. Think of the worst anonymous Internet trolls and imagine their hateful comments directed at a specific teen at your child's school. I'm not sure I see an upside to ask.fm, other than for teens because there seems to be no adult supervision. I do see a lot of comments that would be a blow to a middle-schooler's fragile self esteem.