Tag Archives: Facebook

Where Your Teens Are Hanging Out Online

By Tracey Dowdy:

As a mom, I try – try being the key word in this sentence – to keep up with trends in social media. It helps that it’s part of my job. But honestly, there are days when it feels like I’m jogging with a greyhound – there’s just no way to keep up.

Inevitably, when parents do catch up and get onboard with the latest and greatest, we immediately “mom it up” and our kids start to leave in droves.

So, in the hopes of helping you keep up without embarrassing your children, here are some of the most popular sites, what they’re about, and why they’re popular:

Twitter

Twitter isn’t new – it’s been around since 2006 – but it’s steadily gained popularity, particularly among teens. Limited to 140 characters, Twitter is a microblogging site that provides a platform to share snippets of your day and keep up with breaking news, major sporting events, and celebrity gossip.

When you join Twitter, you choose to follow other users and their tweets then show up in your Twitter feed. Your own tweets can be seen by people that choose to follow you. Tweets can be deleted but users should keep in mind that, like everything else online, our words can still come back to haunt us. Teens like Twitter it because it takes what they like best about Facebook – sharing every waking moment and detail – and shrinks it down to a manageable sentence or two.

Instagram

Instagram lets users post photos or 15 second videos either to a group of followers or publicly. Like Twitter, users can follow friends, strangers or celebrities and leave ‘likes’ or comments. Photos can be edited and filters utilized to create different effects.

Instagram recently added a private message feature, so users can post a photo to up to 15 friends and the photo won’t show up in a user’s regular feed. Likes are a big deal in the world of Instagram, so though the Terms and Conditions specify that sexually suggestive photos may not be posted, users may push the envelope of what is considered acceptable to draw more likes. Teens like it as it takes what they like about Facebook – endless selfies – and lets them filter and edit those duck-faces into artsy photos.

Snapchat

Snapchat has received a lot of negative attention as a way for teens to sext. In theory, the photos disappear after just 1-10 seconds (users determine how long recipients can view the photo) but the problem is that 1-10 seconds is plenty of time for recipients to take a screenshot. As with any form of social media, there are those who will abuse it but, for the most part, teens like Snapchat because it’s another way to connect, be silly and have fun.

Tumblr

Think of Tumblr as an online scrapbook. Users create “Tumblogs” (Tumblr blogs) of images, text and videos, and share their blogs with a list of friends or leave them public. Users can create private profiles but only after creating an initial profile that stays public. Tumblr is a lot of fun – it’s basically a cross between Twitter and Instagram – but content is far less regulated. Sexually explicit language and images are easy to find, as are posts related to self-harm, drugs or other topics parents may find objectionable. For the most part, that’s not why teens are using it. Teens like it for the obvious reason: it’s fun.

Vine

Vine allows users to create and post looping six-second video clips grouped by categories like Art, Music and Dance, Comedy or Style. Videos are intended to be fun, but again, it’s not hard to find objectionable content. Teens like Vine because it’s entertaining and users get to be creative.

Ultimately, like every other area of parenting in our digital age, it’s up to you to decide how much you need to screen and monitor your teen’s activity and what sites are appropriate.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.

Digital Parenting: It’s About Assessing the Risk

Many people believe that digital technology has made the already-difficult job of parenting that much harder. As if we didn’t have enough to do in raising normal, healthy children, we now have to worry about what they might stumble across on the Internet, who they’re texting with on Snapchat, and what they might be doing with that smartphone camera!

In reality, the job of parents should have become easier. Most parents have access to an enormous amount of information and advice through the Internet, and technology-driven medical advances give us early warnings of health issues and treatment options.

Although it’s certainly possible for kids to find trouble in the Internet age, many of those dangers are no different to the problems kids have faced since the first schoolhouse opened its doors. Bullies and bullying existed long before e-mail and Facebook accounts became available; some children were sexually adventurous well before sexting became part of our digital culture; and kids were exposed to smoking and violence on TV long before video games were invented.

A combination of overactive hormones, immaturity, and peer pressure has always caused teens to experiment with risky behavior. What has changed in the digital age is the consequences of such risky behavior. Before, we might have shrugged off some adolescent indiscretion as a boys-will-be-boys moment and hope that they had learned their lesson. Now, with the Internet, YouTube and the ever-present digital camera, such indiscretions may not be so easy to ignore.

Assessing whether your child is likely to engage in risky behavior in the digital world is really no different from how you would have made that assessment 30 year ago. If you think your child might be vulnerable to physical bullying, then it’s likely that they might be exposed to cyber bullying as well. If your daughter is boy-crazy and runs around with a group of like-minded girls, then it’s safe to assume she’s at risk for sexting or similar reckless behavior.

Taking the right steps as a parent depends on our view of our kids’ maturity and lifestyle. If we feel they are well-grounded and are not unduly influenced by risk-takers, then the Internet and digital technology shouldn’t present too many new problems. Regular parental involvement and normal supervision should help them successfully navigate the difficult years.

But if you feel that your child is at risk, then today’s technology offers all the tools they need to turn that risk into a serious problem.

Why We Post Photos of Our Food

By Stacey Ross

I am not a foodie, or a chef. Heck, I do not think I enjoy food any more than your average person. (Well, unless it involves a good beer and sushi…or chocolate!) So why, on any given month, might a good majority of the photos in my social media streams center around food? Why are so many people compelled to tweet what they eat?

My personal view is that food is not that sexy, although I have been known to refer to some Japanese appetizers as “foreplay”! Typically, if I am playing a role in the branding process, I snap away to display a new camera feature, a hotel restaurant, or a favorite item from the menu. And even if there is no compensation involved, there is nothing like giving homage to a person or an institution – like a beer with the ballpark in the background – that you think is doing a great job. It’s just part of the social media culture!

I have found that a photo of a particularly appealing meal can be a valuable contribution to the inter-webs, particularly when accompanied with some descriptive words, recommendations, or geeky captions. I also take the opportunity to share bloopers. For example, my Facebook post sharing my burnt cookies was pretty well-received, likely because of the caption, “Warning: Mom Blogger Hazard!” The sentiment conveyed along with image becomes a unique form of storytelling, although a photo of a standard sandwich and French fries might not be all that compelling!

So why do others post their meals? I asked my colleagues and received a palate-full of replies.

Second nature for foodies

Freelancers, bloggers and foodies all click away ritualistically like they are foodarazzi.  Gina M. Ruiz, a food blogger and a freelancer, hangs out a lot with a Michelin-starred chef, so taking photos of food for her blog Dona Lupe’s Kitchen is imperative. The same applies for her inspiration, Chef Gianfranco Minuez, who is documenting his dishes for a future book. For Gina, sometimes she is “just impressed with the beauty and color or the plating style,” and at other times she is developing a recipe.

My Facebook friend Kimberly Edwards shared that two of her friends must photograph before they eat and that some of her friends regularly post on the review site Yelp. They make a habit of reviewing restaurants before they even open and are often the first to document their experiences – all with their handy cameras!

Images of inspiration

Lifestyle blogger Abby N Lili contributed, “I do not consider myself crafty or artistic, but I can cook. Taking pictures of food and sharing it on BabyBirdsFarm is my creative outlet. I like to believe it is useful to others too. Hopefully, they want to try the recipe, learn something new, or are just inspired to cook fresh, healthy good food.”

Another Facebook friend Lucretia Madden Pruitt added, “I like looking at other people’s food pix because it: a) stimulates my own appetite, b) gives me ideas for dishes to make or try, c) is artistic and aesthetically pleasing, and d) lets me share that moment with them.”

A conversation starter

When shared creatively to celebrate not only the food itself but the experience surrounding it, the “foodographer” can tell a story. I would be doing a disservice to you by editing the response of Faryl Zaklin a social media wizard, friend, and blogger at fearlessblogger.com, so here is all she had to say on the matter:

“I’m not a fan of foodie pics on social media but I can tolerate it if: it’s for accountability; the meal presentation is just beyond words; you’re in a different country and the cuisine is unique; you hunted, slaughtered and cooked part of the meal; it’s moving or has eyes; any part of it is flaming (intentionally or unintentionally); your kid made it; you did an especially good job at making it and you’re proud; you’re sharing a recipe for the photo subject; or you did such a bad job preparing it, words fail you.”

Melinda Kruse DiPerna also hits the nail on the head: “It’s a way of sharing beauty, flavor, color, fun. No different than [photographing] a great flower. Occasionally funny or a warning.”

Food as the great connector

Whether we post photos of our hamburgers for branding purposes or for sensual pleasure, we can’t deny that food serves as a great unifier and conversation starter. When we have family and friends over or even meet someone for the first time, we tend to organize the gathering around a culinary experience. Virtual or not, what is on the dinner table brings people together.

A news anchor at NBC 7 San Diego, Jodi Kodesh, shared, “I do it nearly every time I cook, because I NEVER cook! I’m horrible. When I do make a pretty plate, I want a little bit of praise for the hard work I put into whatever meal I’m showing.”

A firefighter for the U.S. Marines, Ace Torres, knows that ladies love food (and we know firefighters are notorious for having their way in the kitchen!), so he figures that sharing food that he has either bought or cooked himself on his stream might “entice a date by showing girls what they could be eating if they go out with me.” And he makes sure to point out “I don’t use Instagram filters on my food pics.” Ace wants to be sure to portray accurately what a lady can expect. Smart move!

Food remains one of the most talked-about topics on social media and, with the advancement of technology, practically anyone who can aim and shoot can take a delightful photo. As Cari Bee, lifestyle/entertainment blogger behind BusyBeeBlogger.com, reminds us:  “Food is inherently communal. Even if eating alone, we feel compelled to share our experience.”

I’ll chew to that!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.