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If you are the parent of a teenager you no doubt are aware of how social media apps captivate your child. Some days it may feel as if your teen only communicates with the outside world via their phone using one of several apps.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are the means where teens today interact with their peers and learn about the world around them.

Later in this article, we’ll dive into the different social media apps and how they are used by teens today. Let’s look at some related statistics for you to understand what you’re up against.

Most parents want to be able to communicate with their teenager. They want to participate in their lives as more than just the designated driver, but trying to keep up with attention grabbing social media apps and the constant flow of information among these teen apps can be confusing and exhausting for adults.

For some parents, understanding what each social media app does and how it relates to teens communicating with one another helps them participate more in their teenager’s life, and offers a middle point where teens can communicate on their terms with their parents.

The Big Three

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These are the three social media sites that dominate the market. If you have a teen, chances are your teen has an account on at least one, if not all three of these sites.  Facebook owns Instagram. Twitter is a standalone, publicly traded site.  In terms of general usage, Facebook is where people tend to start their social media footprint.

From the perspective of the under 20 crowd, Facebook is used for group related announcements and activities. It’s not uncommon for teams, clubs and organizations to have a Facebook page that publishes information about events, highlights star performances, and generally informs the public about what is happening and relevant.  Teens typically only update their Facebook status when something significant happens, such as getting into college or wishing their BFF happy birthday.

Instagram has two functions; to share pictures – primarily curated, edited and photo-shopped ones, and Stories. Instagram Stories are mini videos taken in real time of things your teen is doing, typically highlighting where and with whom they are doing it.  Behind the visually enticing world of Instagram are “Finstas” or “fake instagrams”.  Finstas show with images and captions the unfiltered side of teen life. Most finsta handles – the name you use on an account – are cryptic so parents can’t find them, and most of the accounts are private, accessible only by requesting to follow.

Twitter is where teens go for news and trending information, like Kardashian sightings and Game of Thrones highlights.

Small But Powerful

Snapchat launched in 2011 as a “selfie app” and has morphed into a commanding presence in the digital world.  With over one billion Snaps every day, this is the preferred method of teen interaction. Snaps have a short shelf life, and the images disappear moments after the recipient has viewed them, making some teens feel emboldened to share images that would otherwise be kept private.

However, Snapchat images can be accessible to anyone via screenshots after their lifespan in the app. Teens still use Snapchat as a way of connecting with peers on a regular basis. This is possibly because 71% of Snapchat users are under the age of 34, making it unlikely that their parents will join in and try to keep tabs on them.

How Social Media Effects Teens

A cursory search of Google will reveal any number of studies about the effects of social media on teenagers, and society as a whole. Some articles will tell parents that social media leads to depression or, ironically, anti-social behaviors. Other studies report that teens using a threshold amount of social media perform below average in school.

Despite the dearth of positive reports about the effects of social media on the teenage brain, the fact remains that social media has become an integral part of our modern society. Everyone is using it –parents included – and sometimes being able to communicate with your teen, even if it’s just knowing where they are because they put a geo tag on a picture, can open the door to more meaningful discourse.

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