What are teens using today in the world of social media? It appears that Facebook is taking a hit that is, tween and teens are shifting their attention to platforms like Kik, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and Snapchat. Felicity Duncan article, Why kids are leaving social networks explains that Facebook has become too big, too complicated and too public for its teen users. Younger users are no longer interested in a social media platform that is overrun by their parents and that their grandmother and next door neighbor are connected to. Why teens are tiring of Facebook by Jennifer Van Grove makes similar conclusions:
For tweens and teens, Instagram — and, more recently, SnapChat, an app for sending photos and videos that appear and then disappear — is the opposite of Facebook: simple, seemingly secret, and fun. Around schools, kids treat these apps like pot, enjoyed in low-lit corners, and all for the undeniable pleasure and temporary fulfillment of feeling cool.
Facebook has lost its appeal according to Duncan for three reasons:
1) spread to all ages teens are aware grandma is watching, not the cool teen tool anymore
2) permanence & ephemerality– teens live in the moment
3) personal vs. professional private vs. public profile curation of a profile for grandma vs. teen friends
Teens, are now shifting from Facebook to Snap chat or other messaging tools that do not appear to have the feeling of permanence or widespread public scrutiny. They may have a very public FB page that they keep with generic posts to keep grandma or Aunt Susie up to date or to create an image for a future employer or college to view, but largely their FB profile is inactive. Duncan terms this shift from broadcast social media to narrowcast tools Teens desire more closed networking, where they feel comfortable that only their friends or a small teen audience is watching:
Instead of posting generic and sanitized updates for all to see, they are sharing their transient goofy selfies and blow-by-blow descriptions of class with only their closest friends.
A slightly older study by PEW Research Centre indicates Facebook continues to lead teen use, but the research also indicates that teens are increasingly using more than one form of social media tool, therefore Facebook has competition.
Teenagers desire digital freedom, just as they do other freedoms as the explore adolescents, and therefore how teenagers are using Facebook and other social media tools needs to be studied. For example, it is already evident that teens know how to create multiple profiles of themselves to match their audience friends versus parents or grandma. This is hardly different from wearing one set of clothing out the door of the house and then changing before they arrive at school or to the party with friends. Facebook profiles might be the broadcast tool while Snapchat and messenger is a more intimate or narrowcast tool to share with friends where teens act and speak quite differently.
Facebook is proving to have staying power as a very public medium for all age groups that choose to engage in social media, however teens are looking for something in digital age that fits their needs or something that they can take ownership over. Danah Boyd of Microsoft observers of teens:
Rather than all flocking en masse to a different site, they’re fragmenting across apps and engaging with their friends using a wide array of different tools…. A new one pops up each week. What’s exciting to me is that I’m seeing teenagers experiment.
When I think back to some of the lessons I learned in psychology classes around child development, I think about the role that egocentrism and instant gratification plays in the development of children and youth. It is a natural part of development to be able to expand beyond the immediate or present day to think about how our actions and interactions connect to the greater world around us and that everything is not just ‘about me’ or the small circle of like friends around me. Although social media and networked learning can bring a more worldly perspective like never before and broaden our social networks, it seems appropriate considering psychological development that youth would seek social media tools that are more ephemeral and allow a closer network with peers for teens to connect the way teens want to connect.
The video Snapchat murders Facebook gives a explains the sense of urgency or ephemeral nature that appeals to teens and a younger generation.
It is easy to see how a simply media tool like Snapchat can be appealing for teenagers as they can quickly and easily share their everyday moments via the story option with friends and know that story dies as quickly as the next one begins. Snapchat and texting are more personal and live in the now, while Facebook is too large, too public, and too complicated.
Ben Rosen’s Snapchat interactions with his little sister give perhaps an extreme example of the teenagers obsession with Snapchat, but the article does provide insight into how Snapchat appeals so well to teenagers. Teens are using Snapchat and other more closed or narrowcast tools such as Messenger to story the now. It is important for parents and teachers to understand how these mediums work and are becoming a natural part of teenager networking and interactions with their friends. It is not about building a large learning network or connecting their lives to the larger world that surrounds them.
After considering Ben’s Snapchat experience I was a bit intimidated by the way Snapchat seems to consume his sister, but then I also recognize teens will use it in various ways to meet their personal networking needs. I think adults, including teachers have similar fears of Snapchat and have made assumptions about the negative aspects. However, Snapchat murders Facebook and Adam’s blog on his first attempt to use it have motivated me to keep an open mind and experience for myself what Snapchat has to offer both teens and adults that want to share/ live those quick stories of our daily experiences with those in our closer network or with those interested in our stories. From narrative inquiry or storied approach, our experiences and lives are nothing more than stories that intertwine and interconnect to explain who we are and bring us deeper meaning- so maybe Snapchat is onto something!
As parents and teachers, we must recognize the positives as well as the concerns that exist as teens shift away from broad platforms like Facebook. This provides some level of privacy and allows teens to interact with one another using tools that appeal to their needs without every moment of their day being shared publicly via Facebook. It allows them to be kids in a smart phone driven society. Narrowcast tools limit the influence of corporations, government, and the world while teens try to be teens. However, this narrowcast also raises concerns about bullying and potential negative behaviours that are less visible to the general public. We must also be aware that narrowcasting prevents youth from engaging with social media as an effective networked learning opportunity.
Vicki Davis provides 12 simple ways that teachers can use social media in the classroom to help students build their digital literacy, communicate effectively while developing their writing. Several of Davis’ suggestions include parents in communications and their teen’s learning via social media. The key is connecting their classroom to the digital world to make learning more relevant and engaging, while expanding the ways that teens use digital media from narrowcasting with friends to a much larger learning network.
The International Society for Technology in Education provides some key standards for educators to consider when establishing classroom practices that support technological literacy and using all forms of digital media to engage in networked learning environments.
Teens now have two networks that are important to them- their personal/ narrowcast network and the larger learning network. It is important for teens and tweens to find social media tools that support their day-to-day networking and engagement with friends and peers while also developing their social media literacy as learners in a world of networked learning and open education. Educators and parents must accept this as reality and find ways to support both networks to enable their children or students to develop although different, but constructive and healthy networks in both.