Tag Archives: Snapchat

Reporting Cyber-Abuse on Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

For as long as there has been life on the planet, there have been those who find pleasure in tormenting others or demonstrate their perceived authority by denigrating those they see as weak or vulnerable. With the advent of social media, those abusive behaviors moved from the real world to the digital world. It’s become nearly impossible for victims to escape. Through social media, the bullying follows you into the privacy of your home, making it seem like there are no safe places.

According to DoSomething.org, nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online, and 1 in 4 have experienced it more than once, yet only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse. A study by the Universities of Oxford, Swansea, and Birmingham found that youth who have been cyberbullied are twice as likely to commit self-harm or attempt suicide than their non-bullied peers. Unfortunately, when those bullies grow up, they often continue their behavior. Pew Research Center found that 73% of adults state they’ve witnessed online harassment and 40% reporting being the target themselves. It’s not just individuals being bullied. Hate groups often utilize platforms like Facebook and Twitter to disseminate their message, and as a result, online hate speech often incites real-world violence.

The message, “If you see something, say something,” is more than a catchy slogan. It’s your responsibility if you see abusive or hate-fueled messages and images online. Here’s how to report offensive content.

Twitter clearly maps out how to report abusive behavior. You can include multiple Tweets in your report which provide context and may aid in getting the content removed more quickly. If you receive a direct threat, Twitter recommends contacting local law enforcement. They can assess the validity of the threat and take the appropriate action. For tweet reports, you can get a copy of your report of a violent threat to share with law enforcement by clicking Email report on the We have received your report screen.

Facebook also have clear instructions on how to report abusive posts, photos, comments, or Messages, and how to report someone who has threatened you.  Reporting doesn’t mean the content will automatically be removed as it has to violate Facebook’s Community Standards. Offensive doesn’t necessarily equate to abusive.

You can report inappropriate  Instagram posts, comments or people that aren’t following Community Guidelines or Terms of Use.

Users can report abuse, spam or any other content that doesn’t follow TikTok’s Community Guidelines from within the app.

According to Snapchat support, they review every report, often within 24 hours.

If you or someone close to you is the victim of harassment, and bullying, you have options. If the abuse is online, submit your report as soon as you see the content. If it’s in the real world, take it to school administration, Human Resources, or the police, particularly if there is a direct threat to your safety.

Finally, if you’re having suicidal thoughts due to bullying or for any other reason, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or call 1-800-273-8255 for help.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Helping Your Teens Manage Social Media Stress

By Tracey Dowdy

I grew up in a rural community back in the 80’s. For me, connecting with my friends outside school mainly consisted of hours on a harvest gold, rotary dial, attached-to-the-wall phone. The greatest day of my life was when my father bought an extra-long cord so I could sit on the stairs and get what little privacy is available to someone with six brothers and sisters.

Kids today – for better or worse – have 24/7 access to their friends and peers. Passing notes in class means shooting a text and social media means your kids are hyper-aware of who is hanging out with who…when they are stuck at home doing nothing.

For many teens, that translates into a lot of stress. A study by the University of Glasgow found that teens often felt a constant need to be online and connected. Furthermore, the strain of the emotional investment manifested itself in poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem and increased levels of anxiety and depression.

If you feel your child is showing any of these signs or you are concerned about changes in behavior, these tips from professional family therapist Roy Dowdy can help you manage those stress levels and help them find a balance.

Start with a conversation. Don’t come in with an agenda, just listen and let the child direct the conversation. Ask open ended questions like, “You seem stressed. Is there anything you’d like to talk about?” or “What do you think will happen if you don’t respond to a text right away?”

Help them set boundaries. Part of parenting is teaching your children self-control, whether that’s choosing to have an apple instead of ice cream or stepping away from Snapchat at 11pm.

Be mindful not to judge. Being immersed in someone’s Instagram account or being obsessed with the latest Snapchat filter may seem absurd to us but did your parents ever really appreciate your obsession with Alan Longmuir from the Bay City Rollers? (Sorry, that got personal.) Social media is how your kids are connecting with their peers and just because we don’t value it doesn’t mean it’s not important to them.

Help them find real-world ways to connect. Social media isn’t going anywhere. The key is to help your child find ways to manage relationships in the real world. Challenge them to leave their phone in their locker, in their bag, or face down on the table and engage in face-to-face conversation. Make sure you’re modeling that behavior by having that kind of conversation with them.

Remember peer pressure is a big deal. Do you remember what it was like to be 14 and be torn between the agony of “I’m hideous, don’t look at me!” and “Ugh, why is everyone ignoring me?” Emotions and reactions are often oversized for teenagers, and helping them learn how to manage their reactions to what they see, don’t see, or feel hurt by on social media is a significant part of the maturity process.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Snapchat Tips for Parents

By Tracey Dowdy

Teens and Snapchat go together like peanut butter and jelly, chips and salsa, bacon and eggs, wine and cheese, mmmm, cheese…. wait, where was I going with this? Oh yes, teens and Snapchat.

With roughly 110 million daily users, Snapchat has surpassed even Twitter’s popularity, particularly with teens.

So what is it? Simply put, Snapchat is a free video and photo sharing app. Users can choose to send a private chat that disappears after one viewing or post a series of photos to create a Snapchat story. Teens love it because it gives them the ability to capture a moment in time, whether it’s silly, hilarious or awkward. Because snaps only last up to 10 seconds, there’s more freedom than with other forms of social media like Facebook and Instagram.

However, it’s not quite as user-friendly as Twitter or Facebook and the challenges inadvertently filter out the less tech savvy, like parents. Since adults are all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Snapchat is a place for our kids to virtually hang out without us and, just as with any other online activity, that is a plus or a minus depending on what your kids are up to.

Snapchat knows the risks involved and addresses them in their Terms of Use. They outline who can use Snapchat, what rights you have and what rights you grant them. There’s content and privacy guidelines mapped out as well as restrictions for copyrighted images, plus much more. There’s a fair amount of information and some is standard across social media platforms but it’s definitely worth the time to read through.

For example, users allow Snapchat access to their address book. It’s not uncommon for apps to request access to your private information but keep in mind that not everything you share is yours – you’re also sharing your friends’ information.

Snapchat also has the right to access your photos and videos. By agreeing to these “Terms of Use” users consent to “grant Snapchat and our business partners the unrestricted, worldwide, perpetual right and license to use your name, likeness, and voice solely in Live, Local, or other crowd-sourced content that you appear in, create, upload, post, or send.”

It’s also important to note that users are legally responsible for what happens while they’re logged on. That means underage teens exchanging nude pics are risking charges ranging from misdemeanors to felonies and potentially being registered as sex offenders. Twenty states have laws specifically related to sexting. Teens need to remember that those kind of photos might not be as temporary or as private as they think.

Back in 2015, 18-year-old high school student Brandon Berlin was arrested for uploading nude and semi-nude photos of underage girls to Dropbox and sharing the images with friends. Most of the photos had been sent via Snapchat by the victims to their boyfriends who then forwarded them to Berlin. “This has to be a teachable moment for us with our kids. They have to understand that once you share something, even with just one person, once you share something online, electronically, you can’t get it back and you lose complete control over where it goes.” – Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman

Berlin’s senior quote in the yearbook? “I prolly had your pics.”

I must reiterate sexting isn’t the only or even the primary use of Snapchat. The intimacy that allows some to sext is valued by others for the simple reason there’s a lot less pressure. In the words of teenager Andrew Watts, “Snapchat has a lot less social pressure attached to it… If I don’t get any likes on my Instagram photo or Facebook post within fifteen minutes you can sure bet I’ll delete it.”

Snapchat’s popularity with teens is easily linked to the cliché “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s easy to misinterpret the meaning behind a text, but a picture and caption or a 10 second video makes your meaning clear.

For more insight and tips on helping your kids understand the risks, Verizon has a great article by Larry Magid, “What Parents Need to Know about Snapchat”.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Is There Life After Snapchat?

By Megan Valente

I once told someone that I considered Snapchat to be like an online video journal that not only documented the events that constructed my day, but also as a tool of reflection. She then scoffed and told me that was the stupidest thing that she had ever heard. If I’m being honest, I was deeply offended by it, until probably about…last week.

Snapchat has become so integrated into our daily lives that it is no longer surprising to see dog filters and flower crowns littered across our social media on a daily basis. I hear, “Hold on, I need to snap this” at least three to four times a day, and listen to my friends complain that they have to watch so many snapchat stories to clear their notifications. But what if I told you that you were living in a filter clad, destructive world and that the girl above was not entirely wrong?

Social media is a wonderful tool for networking, self-expression and commemorating occasions. However, it has also become a liaison for oversharing and, for lack of a better word, a distraction.

“But how could my Snapchat be distracting me? I get to talk to my friends more and like to take fun pictures of our adventures together. Distraction, pft.”

Put down your pitchforks and trust me – I get it. I too snap quick pics with my friends and like to share the fun things I do, but it has gotten to the point where this app has the ability to hinder life. It can be good for long distance friends but the constant contact with people through your phone can limit things such as, oh I don’t know, real face to face interactions. Actual face, not a face-swapped face.

And even when you do actually venture outside into the world – the world lit by sunlight, not the glowing screen of Netflix – your “coffee date with bae” suddenly turns into a phone fest.

I notice this most at college parties. I think I see more of the blinding lights of other people’s phones from Snapchatting the occasion than actually socializing and having fun.

“Was Carla at the party last night?”
“I didn’t see her, but I think I saw her phone case!”

Anyone can wave a phone around, and then go back to the corner of the room to post and make sure the guy/girl they like saw it, but not everyone can actually have a good time.

So yes, the girl mentioned before was pretty harsh about how stupid my idealization of Snapchat was, but maybe she wasn’t entirely wrong. Spend a week using your actual eyes and not your phone screen to live events. You might even save some battery.

Megan Valente is a lifestyle blogger and barista and is currently attending Montclair State University. Follow her on Twitter at @TheDayILived.

Trends in Teens and Technology

By Tracy Dowdy

As a woman in my 40’s living in the suburbs, marketing aimed at me tends to fall in to the home/lawn/wrinkle and/or grey hair maintenance categories. In other words, things my kids couldn’t care less about.

The same principle applies to social media – if it’s trending or something that appeals to me, my kids aren’t interested. They’ve been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and likely got the tattoo.

Though it started as a way for Harvard University students to connect, and despite Mark Zuckerberg’s best efforts, the average Facebook user is now 40.5 years old. Once my generation caught on, Facebook’s “cool factor” dropped significantly.

But just because it’s not the most popular site anymore doesn’t mean teens aren’t using Facebook. According to Pew Research Center, 71% of teens still use Facebook, they’re just using other sites too.social-media-use

Interestingly, socioeconomic status seems to impact which site teens use. Those in households earning less than $50,000 tend to use Facebook more often than other social media, while those in households with an income over $70,000 prefer Snapchat.

When you consider that 73% of teens have smartphones and the fact the average teen sends 3,339 texts a month, suddenly the popularity of apps like Kik and WhatsApp become apparent. Both apps bypass the restraints and cost of traditional texting making their appeal even more understandable.  Video messaging apps like Keek allows users to upload 36 second videos directly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ and HeyTell allows instant voice messaging by pressing a giant “hold and speak” button.

Anonymous sharing apps like Whisper, Yik Yak, and Ask.FM, that allow users to ask questions or post confessional texts or images, are utilized by a smaller number of teens with only 13% of girls and 8% boys reporting use.

All this can be very intimidating for parents, caregivers, school counselors or anyone else tasked with providing emotional or peer support for teens. Online bullying frequently rears its ugly head, as does kid-shaming or the lowest of them all, revenge porn.

Keeping up with what your kids are up to is like trying to outrun a zombie, only in this analogy, you’re the zombie. Unless your prey is as old as Facebook, you may have a hard time keeping up.

Don’t despair. You don’t need to have a Tumblr account, join Snapchat or start making Vines. As with every other good parenting strategy, start with a good ol’ conversation. Ask your kids what’s new, what they’re into and see where it leads. Plus, that’s what we’re here for at The Online Mom. We’re all about keeping up with trends in technology and supporting your family’s digital lifestyle. What trends do you want us to look at? Is there a social media platform you don’t understand? It’s right there in our name – The Online Mom. All you have to do is ask.

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. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Setting Social Media Boundaries for Younger Kids

By Tracey Dowdy

Setting appropriate social media boundaries isn’t as daunting a task as it may seem. By engaging your kids in an honest discussion of what social media is and the possible risks will ensure you can establish boundaries the whole family can respect. More than that, it can help your kids develop healthy online habits that will safeguard them from making common social media mistakes – mistakes that can have long term negative consequences.

Start with a conversation. No one – not you, not your kids – likes arbitrary rules with no background or information to support the decisions. Whatever age your children are, have an honest conversation about setting boundaries, what being safe online means, and what that looks like for your family. Allow give and take, listen to their concerns or arguments, work together to set up guidelines, and help your kids see how it translates to social media use.

Use common sense. You wouldn’t let your kids play unsupervised at the park or let your 4th grader hang out with a group of strangers at a party. Letting your kids surf the web or engage in social media with no restrictions is no different. Setting reasonable limits on the amount of time they can be online or limiting the sites they can access isn’t punitive, it’s protection.

Consider age and maturity. I think we can all agree maturity levels may vary significantly and have less to do with age than life experience. When my oldest daughter was 19, she’d already lived in three different states, two countries and graduated from nursing school. When I was 19, my six year old brother locked me in a trunk while I was babysitting and we were playing magician. “Age is simply a number” may be a cliché but it’s true – you know better than any arbitrary age guideline if your child will make wise choices when they’re online.

Make Privacy Settings your new best friend. Privacy settings aren’t foolproof but they are helpful and are there to safeguard users. Learn how to establish the privacy level you want on each of the social media sites your kids are using and stay up-to-date. Privacy policies are often updated or changed and it’s important to stay informed.

Teach them what’s okay to share. Teaching your kids not to share their personal information or accept friend requests from strangers is fundamental to social media safety. It’s the online equivalent of don’t take candy from strangers. Speaking of sharing, depending on your child’s age and maturity, you may want to have access to their social media accounts, but passwords should never be shared with friends.

Boundaries are important. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that the average 8 to 18-year-old in the U.S. spends almost eight hours a day using entertainment media. That may seem unreal but understand that statistic not only includes TV but texting and using social media platforms like Snapchat and Tumblr. No, not Facebook; we’re on Facebook, so that means our kids aren’t. Think about it; eight hours is a long time – far more than they’re spending with us. That’s why those boundaries are important.

Establish a Family Online Safety Contract. The best way to ensure your kids develop healthy online boundaries, especially with social media, is to establish an Online Safety Contract for your family. There are plenty of templates and samples online or you can simply create your own. By developing it together, you’ve demonstrated that you’re both committed to making it work. Including your kids in the process helps them to be personally invested and gives them ownership on a practical level. Keep in mind you’ll need to update the contract from time to time as your kids mature and need fewer restrictions.

Have a conversation, don’t lecture. Start lecturing about the dangers of social media and watch your kids’ eyes glaze over like frost on a window pane. Instead of listing all the reasons you feel something is inappropriate, ask your kids what they think. Help your kids to understand that what they post can have long term consequences. It’s important they understand that what goes online is out there for everyone to see, and that once it’s out there, it really never goes away.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is just as important online as it is in real life. Help your kids understand bullying is just as hurtful online as it is face to face and words said online have real-world consequences.

Set a good example. Kids see what you do far more clearly than they hear what you say. Set an example for your children by being mindful of what you do online and in real life. Even if your kids aren’t your Facebook friends, they see how you treat others every day and they pick up on your social cues. Beyond that, if you want your kids to have a balance between screen time and face-to-face interaction with friends and family, set the example. That can be something as simple as turning off your phone before you sit down to dinner.

On a final note, you may find it interesting to know that most social media sites and apps require users to be 13 or older. Contrary to popular belief, this has little or nothing to do with protecting your kids from inappropriate content. That’s our job as parents. Instead, 13 is the magic number because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that prevents companies from collecting certain information from kids under the age of thirteen.

Whatever age your children are, by engaging in honest conversation, doing your research, staying connected and up-to-date on what’s trending through sites like The Online Mom, you can feel confident knowing your kids are developing and maintaining safe social media boundaries.

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. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

5 Reasons Why You Should Video Chat This Holiday Season

Let’s face it – most people over the age of 25 don’t like to video chat. Either they remember those early Skype experiments, where the call kept getting disconnected, or they just don’t like the idea of appearing on camera without a full night’s sleep and a couple of hours with their very own hair and make-up department.

But video chat has changed. It’s become so reliable and convenient that millions of people are seamlessly switching between regular voice chats and video chats without batting an eyelid. In fact, with short-form video apps like Vine, Keek and Snapchat, the lines between “normal” chat and video chat are already blurred for much of the younger generation.

With the Holiday season already upon us, it’s the perfect time for the rest of us to give video chat another try. Here are a few more reasons why:

Video chat is more personal

There is no better feeling than being up close and personal with loved ones the Holidays – and if you can’t be together in person, video chat is the next best thing. Show grandma how tall the kids are, or let your sister see how great that sweater looks. Sure, you can always chat on the phone but video chat is much more personal.

Video chat is free

Video chat apps like Skype, Google Hangouts, Tango and ooVoo are completely free, and some of them allow multiple parties to join a call for group video chats. If you’re using a mobile device, be sure to use your home Wi-Fi instead of your cellular network – that way it’s not eating into your data allowance either.

You can chat from anywhere

The overwhelming majority of video apps are built or customized for mobile devices, so you are not tied to your computer or laptop. Let your kids take grandpa on a tour of the house or show friends how good the Christmas tree looks. The front-facing cameras on most tablets and smartphones are ideal for video chat; as long as you stay within range of your Wi-Fi or cellular network, you can take your chat anywhere!

Video quality has improved dramatically

Those interrupted calls and fuzzy images are now a thing of the past. Smarter apps, super-fast networks and HD screens have all combined to make the video chat experience seamless and crystal clear. With mobile devices, we no longer have to worry about flaky webcams that only work when they feel like it. And if you’re worried about those Amoled screens showing a little too much of your early morning face, then you can always appoint yourself Director of Video Chat and carefully point the camera elsewhere!

Video chat is fun!

And the final reason to video chat? It’s just more fun! Your kids love video because it allows them to be clever, funny, serious and goofy all at the same time. Take a leaf out of their book this Holiday season: pick up your phone, throw caution to the wind, and join the video chat party!

7 Messaging Apps That Are Replacing SMS

When texting first became popular, most texts were sent via a wireless carrier’s network. This service (also known as SMS) used to be a huge revenue-generator for the carriers, but is now largely bundled with ‘free’ voice or calling plans as the carriers switch their attention to data.

If you are still using SMS to text your family and friends, then rest assured you are not alone. Despite all the chatter about WhatsApp, SnapChat, Messenger and the rest, SMS remains the #1 messaging option for an overwhelming majority of smartphone owners.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever. The ability to add multimedia functions, group chats, video calls, and much more is quickly adding to the allure of messaging apps, and it seems only a matter of time before they catch up and even surpass the popularity of SMS.

If you have a teenage son or daughter, it’s almost guaranteed that they are using at least one messaging app. If you are thinking of joining them, here are 7 of the more popular options:

Facebook Messenger

messengerTNUp until now, Facebook included a messaging feature in its social network app, so there was no need for a separate download. However, Facebook has just announced that all future mobile messaging will have to be done through the stand-alone Messenger app. Desktop users will be able to continue to use the built-in messaging app as before.

Messenger includes text, group chat, photo and video sharing options, and even stickers. The good thing about Facebook is that almost everyone is on it, so you won’t have to spend time adding all your contacts.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry


WhatsApp

whatsappTNWith over 500 million active users, WhatsApp is arguably the most popular messaging app in the world – so popular, in fact, that Facebook agreed to pay $19 billion to acquire it! WhatsApp’s strength is its simplicity. Once the app is downloaded, WhatsApp checks your contacts and automatically adds WhatsApp users. You don’t need to send a request to be able to connect through WhatsApp.

WhatsApp supports text messages, group messages, photos and videos, and audio media messages. WhatsApp management has also announced that they are developing a voice option, which will be the equivalent of making a phone call.

Cost: $0.99 per year (first year free)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Skype

skypeTNEstablished as a desktop tool, Skype has made an uneven transition to mobile, disappointing some early adopters and encouraging other messaging services to step up and fill the void. The Skype mobile app supports text messaging, photos and videos, and face-to-face video and voice calls over Wi-Fi or a wireless network. There is also a low-cost voice calling option to mobile devices and landlines.

Cost: Free (with the exception of some calling options)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Google Hangouts

hangoutsTNAlthough Google Hangouts supports an instant text messaging service, its real strength is in multi-person voice and video chats. The video chat option is particularly appealing and supports a number of increasingly sophisticated production options. The messaging app is very basic but it does support photos and GIFs, which can be automatically saved in a Google+ album.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


SnapChat

snapchatTNExtremely popular among tweens and teens, SnapChat started life as an instant photo-sharing service that allowed users to add a text caption. The photos automatically disappeared after a few seconds, leading to (largely unfounded) fears of teen sexting. SnapChat also supports plain text chat and has recently added Stories, which allows users to video chat simply by pressing and holding the screen.

SnapChat’s success has attracted the attention of Facebook but so far SnapChat’s founders have rebuffed all acquisition attempts. Both Facebook (Slingshot) and Instagram (Bolt) have recently introduced SnapChat competitors, although Bolt is not yet available in the U.S.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


LINE

lineTNPopular overseas, LINE supports free voice and video calls as well as regular text messaging, photos and more. Although the app is fee to download, users can spend money on a range of in-app purchases, which include stickers, games and even messages from celebrities. Music and shopping services are expected to follow.

Cost: Free with some optional in-app purchases
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Kik

kikTNWith the decline of BlackBerry (and the beloved BBM), there was an obvious need for a smart and flexible cross-platform messaging tool. Enter Kik, a rapidly-evolving messaging service that now has over 100 million users. With Kik you can exchange text messages, videos, images, emoticons, and more, and features like Kik Cards allow for a surprising level of customization.

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone

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.