The Ins and Outs of Social Media

The Ins and Outs of Social Media
May 14, 2013 Kim Goldman

Austin-Social-MediaIn today’s society, teens are relying more on social media and technology to connect with one another.  These online interactions are an integral part of the social lives of today’s youth. It is no wonder there is also a growing concern on what is happening on these sites and how one can navigate the interweb.

So many of us are unfamiliar with popular social media that are relevant to teen’s social lives and because it is rapidly changing, it’s hard to keep up.  We hope to bring awareness and education to parents, teachers, etc. about the various types of social media that is common among teens.

What is Social Media? And who can use it?

Social media refers to the interactions among individuals in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks (Wikipedia, 2013).  Although the Children’s Online Privacy Act prohibits companies from collecting information from children under 13 years old, this does not mean that users under 13 are nonexistent in the social media world.  Further, many social medias have age restrictions for their users.  However, it is not difficult to bypass these restrictions.  Many children will fake their birth date in order to create an online account.
** Parents, beware that although there are restrictions, it is most likely that your teens will find a way to create accounts on theses social media sites and phone applications without your knowledge or permission.

We have provided links to these sites, so please dig a little deeper so you can truly understand the complexity of each app.  Additionally, you should discuss in depth the dangers of social media: never give personal information, turn off GPS tracking (it can trace your location when uploading pictures and status updates), do not send provocative images via social media/internet, etc.



Facebook is no longer relevant for most teens.

When we think of social media, many of us automatically think of Facebook.  However, in recent conversations with numerous teens, it became evident that Facebook is no longer the social media utilized most by teens to communicate with one another.
So what is relevant?

Here is a list and description of some of the most common social medias that have been brought to my attention through the course of working with high school teens.  Remember to keep in mind the trend is constantly changing but it is essentially to be aware of what teens are being exposed to.


What is it?

“Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting.  Simply find the accounts you find most compelling and follow the conversations.” (Twitter, 2013)

What is it being used for?

Twitter is an online website and mobile application.  Many teens use Twitter to connect to celebrities, musicians, or other Internet famous individuals.  They also use it as a form of communication among friends.  Teens can make Tweets in 140 characters or less to a vast number of followers.  Tweets can also be photos and videos.  Accompanying these Tweets are often #hashtags for grouping messages under a particular theme that can be search by other users.  There are privacy settings for a user’s Tweets, but many teens keep their profile “public” in hopes of gaining more followers.  Users can communicate with one another through Tweets and also private messages.

Bullying and Twitter

Twitter is increasing being used to bully other teens.  Tweets can be made to a vast number of followers to “call out” another individual.  Followers can then bandwagon off of these tweets and “retweet” the actual tweet on their profile, adding their own comments.  Tweets containing personal screen shots of conversations and images are being tweeted to further retaliate.



What is it?

“It’s a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your photos with friends and family.  Snap a picture, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram.   Share to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr too – it’s as easy as pie. It’s photo sharing, reinvented.”  (Instagram, 2013)


 What is it being used for?

Instagram is among the most popular phone application among teens and its trend continues to grow.  Although Instagram was restricted to only phone use, many websites such as quickagram, iphoneogram, indagram, webstagram, extragram, followgram, and statigram, were created to be able to share instagram photos on websites pages.    However, Instagram is no longer limited to phone applications.  At the end of 2012 it was announced that Instagram will have profiles on the web via

Statigram differs from the other site in that it provides statistics for users and offers competitions for user followers and likes.  Users can only communicate to one another via public comments made on photos.  Profiles can be made public or private.  Users have the ability to block others from finding their profile.  Further, Instagram does not promote nudity or inappropriate content.  There is an option to report or flag any abuse of their policies.

Bullying and Instagram

Istagram accounts and hashtags have been created to bully others.  In the Santa Clarita Valley accounts such as SCVfags, 661faggots, SCVwhales, SCVpartysluts, are among some of these accounts.  Teens can #hashtag, @mention or screen shot images to be submitted to such accounts for it to be posted for its numerous followers.  Many of these accounts are continually changing names and its profiles are kept private for only the “popular” ones to manage.


What is it?

“Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, email or wherever you happen to be. You can customize everything, from colors to your theme’s HTML.” (Tumblr, 2013).

What is it being used for?

Tumblr is essentially an online blog where users can post multimedia information (text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio, and video) on their profile page.  Users can follow and like other blogs.  For each post a user creates, they are able to make their post view-able by others interested in a certain topic by #hashtagging their post with the appropriate tag.   Users can connect with one another by private messages that offer support, advice or questions.  Users have the option of messaging with their own profile user-name or they can messages using the identity “anonymous.”  When a user replies to these private messages, they can have their conversation made public on their profile page.  Many teens use Tumblr as a social support for depression and advice for dealing with bullying and body image.

**Parents beware of your child’s use of Tumblr.  Although, it is an amazing resource for teens to gain support from one another, it’s content is not restricted.  Teens may be exposed to graphic images and content.  It can also be a place for teen to gather unsafe information on ways to cope with depression.  There are blogs that are dedicated to teaching teens how to cut and embraces it as being “cool.”  Further, with the ability to privately message users under an “anonymous” identity there is a growing trend of cyber bullying where teens will write messages harassing other teens and encouraging them to kill themselves.


snap chat

What is it?

Snapchat is a new way to share moments with friends. Snap an ugly selfie or a video, add a caption, and send it to a friend (or maybe a few). They’ll receive it, laugh, and then the snap disappears.” (Snapchat, 2013).

What is it being used for?

Snapchat is a phone application that allows users to snap an image or a short video to share with an individual friend or group of friends.  Prior to sharing their chat, users have the option to set a time limit for how long the chat can be viewed for prior to it disappearing.  This time limit can vary between 1 second to 10 second.  The dangers of Snapchat are clear.  It is often being used as a tool for sexting.  The ability to have the content disappear gives the illusion that what users are sending to a particular individual(s) will not be shared with others.  Thus, encouraging teens to partake in more at-risk behaviors.  However, many teens are forgetting the ability on most mobile device to take a screen shot of what is being displayed on one’s phone prior to it disappearing.  This screen shot can then be shared among others without the sender’s knowledge.


kik-logoKik and InstaMessage

What is it?

Kik is the fast, simple, personal smartphone messenger.” (KIK, 2013).  It is an instant messenger application similar to AIM chat or texting.  It is commonly used because it can replace a texting plan.  Kik uses a provider’s data plan or Wi-Fi connection to send and receive messages, photos, or links to others on their Kik contact list.  Further, Kik does not use phone numbers but users create user names that can be accompanied by a profile photo.  Similarly,  “InstaMessage allows you to connect directly with nearby users or anyone you like on Instagram, privately”  (InstaMessage, 2013).  On InstaMessage user names are identical to the user names on Instagram.

What is it being used for?

Ultimately, the ability to communicate with others without having to provide them with your personal information, such as your phone number, creates a sense of privacy among users.  Kik and InstaMessage makes is easy to block users.  Both of these mobile applications are free because it is not reliant on texting plans.  This can be challenging for parents if they are trying to monitor who their child communicates with.  It can also be dangerous because teens can never really know whom they are talking to if it is someone they met online.





What is it?

“A stunning hybrid between photo and video” (Cinemagram, 2013).  It is a GIF creation application where users are able to creating moving photos



What is it being used for?

This social media is similar to the concepts of Instagram.  It was created to meet the demands of users seeking for more interactive posts.  Posts are a hybrid between photos and videos.  However, this application is slowly losing interest to the creation of the new social media Vine.


What is it?

Vine is the best way to see and share life in motion.  Create short, beautiful, looping videos in a simple and fun way for your friends and family to see“  (Vine, 2013).  It is a mobile application by Twitter that enables video clips with a maximum length of six seconds.  Users must be 17 years old and over.   However, as previous mentioned in the introduction, teens can easily create fake birth dates.



Similarily Keek  is “the fastest way to share video updates with friends. Share 36-second video updates via webcam, iPhone or Android. Posting keeks is a fun way to meet new people, stay up to date with friends and tell the world what you’re up to in real-time” (Keek, 2013).

What is it being used for?

Both of these applications are similar to the concepts of Instagram.  However, what Instagram lacked was its ability to have video posts.  These social medias were created to meet this new demand.  Vine was recently listed as one of the top free mobile application on Apple’s App Store Top Charts.


ooVoo and Skype


What is it?

Both of these are video-conferencing and messaging social medias.

“ooVoo is a free video chat and instant messaging app for desktop, mobile, tablets and Facebook.  ooVoo lets you chat with up to 12 people for free anytime.” (ooVoo, 2013).

Similarly, this application resembles Skype.  skype


What is it being used for?

Parents need to be aware of its built-in recording features that can turn video sessions into potential dangers for teens.


omegleWhat is it?

Omegle is a great way for you to meet new friends. When you use Omegle, we pick another user at random and let you have a one-on-one chat with each other. Chats are completely anonymous unless you choose to mention personal details, and you can disconnect whenever you like.” (Omegle, 2013).



What is it being used for?

Parents beware! Social media site such as these can be filled with graphic images and content.  The main difference chatroulettebetween the two social medias is that ChatRoulette requires a webcam while on Omegle users can choose to only communicate via text.  These are online chat rooms with a twist. Users are randomly connected with strangers online.  If they do not like who they are connected with they can disconnect with that user and automatically get a new random connection.  Many users display x-rated content during their online chats.




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