Teen Tweeting Surges

By Kiwi Commons

If you Google the words ‘teens’ and ‘twitter’, you’ll probably find that a lot of the results are articles and blogs pointing out that teenagers tend to shun the micro-blogging site, as opposed to Facebook.

Many factors are given for the phenomenon. For one, teens apparently associate Twitter with self-promotion and generally don’t feel the need to self-promote until their college years, when they start planning in earnest for careers.

Nevertheless, teens have begun migrating over to Twitter in recent months. A Pew survey last July found that 16 percent of young people, ages 12 to 17, said they used Twitter. Two years earlier, that percentage was just 8 percent. “That doubling is definitely a significant increase,” says Mary Madden, a senior research specialist at Pew.

It turns out there are plenty of logical reasons for Twitter’s new found popularity among teens. Primarily, as Martha Irvine suggests in her recent article for The Associated Press, young people are beginning to feel that Facebook is just getting too darn crowded.

Think about it: when you post on Facebook, everyone who has friended you has access to your latest declarations, photos, and whatever else you feel like posting in the moment. These can include close family members and very loose acquaintances.

On Twitter, it’s a different story. “Teens tout the ease of use and the ability to send the equivalent of a text message to a circle of friends, often a smaller one than they have on crowded Facebook accounts,” writes Martha Irvine. “They can have multiple accounts and don’t have to use their real names. They also can follow their favorite celebrities and, for those interested in doing so, use Twitter as a soapbox.”

One pithy teen participating in a focus group at Microsoft Research put it well when they said, “Facebook is like shouting into a crowd. Twitter is like speaking into a room.”

Other teenagers say they feel social pressure to friend everyone they meet on Facebook, which leads to a wider-ranging and less-exclusive audience for their status updates and uploaded videos. On Twitter, by contrast, it’s easier to select followers and stock accounts only with close friends, those you feel you can be candid with.

To compare social media and real life for a moment, Facebook for many teens has become their public face, like the persona they use in high school and regular society. Twitter, on the other hand, better represents their most intimate circle of friends, a digital clique.

But we’re still talking about young people here, and the fact that they now use Facebook and Twitter only exposes them to more social media-related online risks.

“Certainly, parents are always concerned about online predators – and experts say they should use the same common sense online as they do in the outside world when it comes to dealing with strangers and providing too much personal information,” writes Martha Irvine.

If your kids have begun to use Twitter, make sure they know how to lock their accounts and adjust privacy settings. Remind them that even if they have a locked account, someone with a public account can retweet a posting on a friend’s account, which allows anyone to see it.

At the end of the day, there’s no way to stay completely anonymous and safe online. But that doesn’t mean parents can’t raise privacy-savvy children. It’s just a matter of spending a little time on social media sites and figuring it all out together as a family.

Talk To Us!: Do your kids use Twitter? Do you follow them?

The above article is reproduced from Kiwi Commons, a news, and information weblog dedicated to providing readers with the most relevant and up-to-date resources available on Internet safety, cyberbullying, social media and digital legacy.

Comment by Alex Reichenbach, Liv2BGirl, LLC, posted 2/8/2012, 9:37 PM:

I completely agree with what you said about coming together as a family when it comes to social media sites. Today's technologically-savvy days makes it nearly impossible for parents to keep their teens off of social media sites. Liv2BGirl is a social media site for girls between the ages of 8-14. The site allows girls to create an individual online profile, chat with friends and post videos with absolutely NO bullying. Check it out! Liv2BGirl.com
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