“We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook’’ from a Facebook regulatory filing with the SEC, February 2013.
Teens and pre-teens use social media a lot. Recent figures from The Pew Institute’s Survey of Social Media Use suggest that more than 80% of teenagers and young adults are using social media, well above the internet average (67%). A 2010 study suggested that the average teen spend 110 minutes a day on social networks. Increasingly teens are using social media on mobile devices, that’s phones or iPod touches with a wi-fi connection, not sitting at the family’s computer, which makes parental supervision tougher.
But if teens and pre-teens are using social media a lot while deserting Facebook, where are they going?
Firstly, it’s important to understand that most teens continue to use Facebook, just not as much and for specific uses. Facebook is now full of adults. Can a teen really refuse a friend request from their grandparents or their aunts and uncles? In addition Facebook’s privacy record is questionable, which make teens leery. So while teens keep a Facebook account to post safe pictures and Instant Message with their families, they’re using other social media platforms to connect with friends.
Where are they going? Here are 5 of the most popular alternatives:
- Instagram: Yup, not just for hipsters to post pictures of their food, the popular photo sharing service is also a popular teen connection social media network. It allows teens a forum to share pictures taken with mobile devices and they can chat with their friends. Proper use of the privacy setting can make it feel private. Instagram is becoming the preferred platform for tweens, those under 13 year olds who are ‘officially’ excluded from most social networks.
- Snapchat: Launched in September 2011 and developed by 4 students from Stanford, Snapchat is a photo messaging app that allows users to take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a list of friends. Senders determine how long messages can be viewed, up to 10 seconds, after which they are deleted from the recipient’s device and the company’s servers. The recipient list and the time limit make teens feel safer when posting pictures, but Snapchat insist that this is no guarantee of privacy, as many teens have discovered.
- Kik Messenger: Kik Messenger is a free mobile app that allows user to send and receive unlimited messages over wi-fi and cellular, bypassing a phone’s traditional text service. Being able to send and receive unlimited messages without charges is a boon for chatty teens. It also means that parents are less likely to know how much messaging is actually happening. Since a Kik account isn’t attached to a physical phone number, it’s more anonymous. It could be a fictitious username or a string of numbers and can be easily changed if needed. Users can also hold multiple accounts. All of this adds to a greater feeling of privacy for teens.
- Twitter: Over the past two years the number of 12-17 years olds on Twitter has doubled from 8% to 16%. Teens like twitter because they can be more anonymous. They don’t need to show their real name, can hold multiple accounts with various identities and can change their handle or account easily. They can also use simple privacy settings to protect tweets and send what amounts to a ‘group text’. Add to that being able to follow The Biebs and you can see the appeal
- Pheed: Pheed is a platform for sharing user-created content such as text, pictures, sound, video, and live broadcasts. Users subscribe to other’s channels and view uploaded content in real-time. They can ‘love’ or ‘heartache’ content, hashtag it and provide ‘pheedback,’ as well as share content from others. Pheed is popularized by endorsements from celebrities (Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton, et al) who use it as a way to promote their content (MySpace anyone?). A huge advantage for Pheed users is they retain control of their uploaded content, unlike Facebook, and no one is allowed to use it or edit it without permission. Users also have the option to charge for their content, which Pheed hopes means the content is of higher quality.
The movement of teens and tweens away from Facebook is fueled by privacy concerns. They are gravitating towards services that will allow them develop a separate identity and connect with others on their own terms. Some of the social media platforms outlines above address some of those concerns, but don’t change the basic fact of social media. Teen users need to understand that the internet is always public all the time. There might be the appearance of privacy but that is an illusion and users must always assume that anything they post can be shared. Parents and educators need to help helps teens understand that the internet is public and never forgets .