Remember decades ago when teenagers used to sit on home telephones for hours each night talking to their friends? Then along came the internet and with it an explosion of ways to share your life without actually speaking to anyone.
First it was MySpace, then came Facebook and now there are scores of life-sharing apps available to our teenagers, who have become the most electronically connected generation of all time.
Today, Facetime, texting, and online photos are the way teens prefer to keep in touch. And there are some seriously cool tools to help them. A recent study found that 13 to 17-year-old boys and girls in the United States spend an average of two hours and 20 minutes a day online and 80 percent of that time is spent on social networking sites. According to the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of 15 to 17-year-old girls; 69 percent of 15 to 17-year-old boys and 38 percent of 12 to 14-year-olds have some type of online social media profile.
Regardless of whether we, as parents, like our kids being on sites like Facebook and YouTube as much as they are, it seems the trend is here to stay, replacing trips to the mall to hang out in person. There are advantages to online friends because teens can build social relationships and connect with people of shared interests, regardless of their geography.
Facebook has been the big dog on the street for years but for teens there’s a new crop of free social networking applications that can foster their creativity - whether showing off their newest “selfie,” musical or artistic projects, or their most recent vacation shots to friends.
With over 100 million users, Instagram is the most predominant teen app out there now. It touts itself as a fun, free, and simple way to make and share photos. Instagram, which launched in 2010, touts their app with its filtered effects and cropping tools as a way to “transform everyday moments into works of art.”
Like its owner, Facebook, Instagram’s live updates keep teens in the know on what their buddies are doing. However, unlike Facebook or Twitter, Instagram is a photo-only app that banks on creativity.
For teens who want to send their friends gifts, GifBoom is a moving version of Instagram that makes it easy to create animated photographs. Although some users say this app isn’t very user-friendly at first, moving Instagram-esque photos is pretty cool and worth figuring out.
For teens or adults who enjoy Facebook’s timeline, Path allows you to share almost anything - from your location to what you’re watching or listening to at any given moment. Path users can private message and chat instantly. Friends and family can “comment, smile, laugh, gasp, frown, or love your photos, videos, places, music, movies, books, workouts and more.”
Path, with its live updating, offers users a minute-by-minute timeline of someone’s day (for those who might be interested). The cool thing about Path is you only have 150 friends, creating a more close-knit feeling for many users.
Want to send a selfie that doesn’t stay in the cyber-world forever? Check out Snapchat with its real-time picture chatting whose messages disappear in 1-10 seconds after being opened.
Snapchat lets you take a photo or short video, add text or a doodle and send it to your friends to view for a set amount of time (1-10 seconds, your choice).
Once someone opens the pic, they have to press down on their phone screen to view the photo. After the timer is up, the photo or video disappears forever.
Snapchat creators say all the messages are deleted from their servers and the only way they can be captured is if the recipient takes a screenshot or uses an image capture device.
Regardless of which apps teens choose to communicate and keep in touch, there are lots of options out there.
There are good and bad effects for teens from social media but many psychologists who study these effects believe the positive benefits outweigh the negative ones, but parents should make an effort to ensure that the positives win out by monitoring your teens and their online activity.