"The kids aren’t on Facebook anymore."
That's a common refrain I hear from my friends and co-workers hoping to find ways to market products and services to teens on social media.
The fact that teens are abandoning Facebook is only partially true. According to a 2014 iStrategyLabs report, about 3 million teens have left Facebook since 2011. That only accounts for about 25 percent of the U.S. teen demographic on Facebook.
Instead, teens likely consider Facebook to be one of many options for connecting with others and cultivating their social profiles.
Not all teens are leaving Facebook, because at the end of the day, Facebook is still a way to connect with family and older friends. When not self-absorbed, teens still find a need to connect with those who have graduated and moved on to college, jobs, marriage and children.
For these connections, Facebook is often the best option for teens to keep up with the evolving lives of family and friends.
Still, if Facebook is only one of several social media tools, what are the others tools you don’t know about, and likely don’t know how to use?
Here are two tools teens are probably using (and don’t want you to use):
Okay, you've probably heard of SnapChat, but how many of you use it? This mobile messaging app allows users to take quick pictures and videos, and set times (usually a few seconds) on how long the content can be viewed.
Most SnapChat users think that once time has expired, the content disappears. But do a quick search of "saving SnapChats" and you’ll find options for capturing that content. Kind of scary if someone is using SnapChat for sexting.
I started using YikYak in October after overhearing a student talk about it (thanks, Graig G.). YikYak is a location-based, anonymous social posting platform. If you're around any university in the U.S. (and some high schools), chances are students are using it to complain about a class, ask for advice, find love, "hook up," or just offer mundane and occasionally funny commentary on life.
YikYak's problem, however, is also its hallmark feature: anonymity. It's the equivalent of scribbling a threat on a bathroom wall. Comments related to violence, terrorism, and personal attacks have been posted to YikYak, anonymously of course, leading law enforcement to scratch their heads as to the best course of action.
In response to bullying posts, YikYak erected "geo fences" around some schools to shut down the app and eliminate threatening posts. Of course, this doesn’t stop teens from using it outside the fenced-in area.
Your options: Be diligent. If you’re concerned about how teens you know might be using social media, take a few minutes and search Google to learn more about the different options available to them.
Better yet, have open conversations with the kids in your life about safe, responsible social media use. Remember, they know more about social media than you probably do.
~ A version of this post appeared in the Sunday, January 25, 2015 issue of The Vindicator.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.