[On June 19, Nathan Neil and Janelle DelSignore of LaunchUX had the privilege of leading a presentation titled “Parent Power – Social Media” to an audience of concerned parents, grandparents and others. The candid discussion included statistics and tips intended to keep kids and teens safe online, but most importantly, it included a live interview with two high schoolers regarding their actual social media usage. The event was sponsored by LaunchUX and NewsTalk 103.7, and it was held at 104 B Street in Greencastle. The event was streamed live on Facebook and covered by The Record-Herald. We proudly present our findings in this three-part blog series. If you missed the previous installments of this series, you can get caught up here and here.]
Parents, Teens and Social Media Part 3: Fifty-One Quotes
The age at which social media is introduced into our lives – and the technology used to access it – has subtly defined the next generation of defining generation gaps. From sock hops in the 50s to shopping malls in the 80s, the media consumed by youth culture as well as the environments in which they socialize ultimately become the defining traits of that generation.
For context, the oldest LaunchUX team member joined Facebook in 2005 during the period when Facebook still required a campus e-mail address to join. He briefly had Myspace, Friendster, Facebook and Livejournal at the same time. Of those sites, only his Facebook is still updated in any meaningful way, but the other accounts were never formally deleted and might still exist somewhere. It wouldn’t even be possible to “like” something until 2009, and the now ubiquitous “Timeline” profile wouldn’t be introduced until 2011 (rolled out through 2012). It is also important to note that at this time, Facebook was often accessed on desktop computers in open campus computer labs, while teens today access it as app on their own smartphones. He has since added Twitter, Instagram and a blog on Medium (a platform that combines social media features with long-form content).
This can be contrasted with our Marketing Director and in-house social media expert Janelle DelSignore whose experience with Facebook began in high school. It was still accessed on a desktop computer, but by the time she was in college the experience had migrated to an app. Today, she is most active on Snapchat.
Teenagers in 2018, however, have never known a world without social media, and it has almost entirely been a mobile experience on their own, personal smartphones. This has certainly affected their experience with it, and, accordingly, social media definitely plays a different role in their lives than it does in the lives of their parents.
But parents can only guess – and worry – about what that difference is.
The generation that has grown up with Leapfrog and Wi-Fi compatible Nintendo DSs is now in a position to use real social media to create real change in the world. To understand what that means for us, we have to understand what technology – specifically social media – means to them.
In the interest of open dialogue, Janelle invited Hannah and Jacob up to answer some of our questions about what platforms they use and how they use them because if social media has taught us anything, it’s that teenagers are more comfortable broadcasting their thoughts in large public forums than they are talking to their parents ?.
On being raised alongside technology:
- “I’ve had like gaming stuff and iPods and iPads, Leapfrogs and DSs since I was a little kid. Electronics are what I’ve grown up with. It’s not a bad thing to us. It’s just what we know.” [Hannah].
- “I think I got my iPod in fifth grade. Since then I’ve had one.” [Jacob].
- “I guess I started when I was thirteen on Instagram, and I would have been in sixth grade. Probably around then. I would say, like, sixth, middle school – in the middle of middle school – thirteen, fourteen…and a lot of other kids start having it then, too.” [Hannah].
- “I would say sixth or seventh grade. My brother, well, he’s going into eighth grade now, but he got Instagram going into seventh grade. So I feel like that’s my guideline.” [Jacob].
On phones as a lesson in responsibility:
- “Once you get a phone, you kinda’ have to be more mature and not lose your phone and all that stuff like that. That’s one thing my parents stressed: Keep your phone. Don’t break it. Make sure you keep it charged in case you need to get in contact with me.” [Jacob].
- “It’s panic. It’s awful. Even me, too. I freak out. Oh no, I have to find a charger. Where’s the nearest charger? I don’t have a charger. A really popular thing is battery pack cell phone chargers, which I know a lot of people have those. They’re like life savers.” [Hanah].
On living a life worth sharing:
- “If I go on vacation, I’ll post pictures of scenery or pictures of my friends or with my family get-togethers and everything.” [Hannah].
- “And there’s some people that just post a bunch of stuff about themselves. They’ll take pictures of themselves and just post it and don’t say anything but the time that they took the picture.” [Jacob].
- “Yeah, all of my friends, they just constantly – if something funny happens – they literally just have their phones out following it and putting it on their Snapchat Story, which is where all of the contacts that they have on Snapchat – if they put it on your story, then everyone can see what you’re doing.” [Hannah].
- “Yeah, you really can’t like and comment (on VSCO) – I think you can comment, but it’s more like if you get your picture that you posted re-shared or re-posted, it’s like a big deal. It’s cool.” [Hannah].
- “There are apps you can get to get more followers, but you have to pay money to get more followers – but they’re just random people and Facebook and Instagram pages.” [Jacob].
On how social media connects real people in the real world:
- “If you play sports, with them, that’s what I usually do. I’ll talk to my friends during basketball or something like that during school. Maybe bowling or something like that.” [Jacob].
- “Yeah, people, my sister, actually, for instance, she met her boyfriend that she’s dating now – he direct messaged her on Instagram and they started talking and now they’re dating.” [Hannah].
- “It’s kind of hard because you don’t want to be like, ‘Hey, you’re not listening to me, get off your phone.’ The best way, I guess is to approach them and tell them – I want to have a conversation with you.’ But it is hard because they do – they get mad if you confront them about it.” [Hannah].
- “I’m more open with my friends. If they’re texting or something and we’re doing something, I’ll just be like, ‘Get off your phone. We’re not here to text each other.’ Or something like that. Let’s actually talk and go out and do something. They’re okay with that, so I feel like it’s more like a feeling of your friendship.” [Jacob].
- “It’s not really on your smartphone, but if you have a Playstation or Xbox, you can play games with each other and you can talk in person. I play Fortnite, which is a game, with my cousins, and I’ll talk to my cousins. You can communicate and keep up with them. You’re actually talking to them. Not texting them. But you’re also playing a game with them.” [Jacob].
- “Or I’ll play NBA with them – a basketball game. And we’ll just talk, but it’s also about playing the game. You can be competitive with your cousins and have fun that way. Even if you can’t get together with them, you can still talk to them.” [Jacob].
- “If you want to know something about somebody, you can just Snapchat them. If you’re worried about somebody, you can just Snapchat them and say, ‘Hey, are you alright?’ And usually you can tell just by what they say if they’re alright or not, and from there you can decide what to do.” [Jacob].
On cyberbullies, predators and other threats:
- “It definitely messes with students – especially my age, teenagers – it’s a stage where they’re insecure sometimes. They’re just getting to learn everything and deal with things through life.” [Hannah].
- “I have this one friend, who – on Instagram you can do polls – and she posted this selfie and said, ‘Do you think this is pretty or not?’ – thinking that she was going to get a really positive response that she was really good and boost her self-esteem. But it ended up being negative. People were like, ‘No, this isn’t pretty.’ And it really hurt her feelings. It was kind of sad for her to do that.” [Hannah].
- “I’ve seen stuff like that, too, where somebody will post something wanting to get positive feedback and then they’ll get negative feedback and feel bad about themselves instead of feeling good about themselves.” [Jacob].
- “For Instagram, they have fake Instagram accounts called Finsta that a lot of kids make, and it’s like the other one that you don’t want to see. It is private, usually, and they only let a couple of people follow them, so on that they will post a picture of someone and they will make fun of them or ridicule them. It’s really rude and harsh to one person. And that person won’t be able to see it. They won’t even know about it.” [Hannah].
- “There are also apps where if you don’t want someone to know you took a screenshot, you can download an app or press a button and it records your screen for a certain amount of time, and then you can open it and you can see and then you can stop the recording. Then you have the picture or whatever and people don’t know you screenshot it.” [Jacob].
- “Kids will be sending inappropriate pictures to other people, and they will have no idea that their picture has been screenshotted.” [Hannah].
- “This is kind of crazy, too, because the Snap Map, it takes the location that you’re at and it tells everyone that you’re friends with where you’re at, at that time.” [Hannah].
- “I disabled mine because I don’t really want people knowing where I’m at. It’s kinda’ weird. Somebody could stalk you or something like that.” [Jacob].
- “I’m definitely most worried about predators out there. Definitely. I keep my Instagram private because I am very cautious about who I let follow me because people can say who they are – they won’t be actually the person they say they are. So that scares me a lot. Something just so little as someone doing that could ruin your life, change your whole entire life.” [Hannah].
On the role of parents in social media:
- “My mom has all of that stuff. She follows me, too.” [Jacob].
- “My mom has Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, everything.” [Hannah].
- “Yeah, I mean, I don’t really have anything to hide, so they can take it. It wouldn’t really matter to me.” [Jacob].
- “I don’t find a problem with it. You shouldn’t really have anything to hide, so if they want to look at it, let them get it out of the way.” [Jacob].
- “There would be some where they would be more hesitant to do that. Maybe get a little worried about that.” [Jacob].
- “It would be a devastation, probably.” [Hannah on parents checking the phones of teens that maybe have something to hide].
- “It’s kind of a place where parents wouldn’t think to look and so it would definitely be a good thing to do. I don’t think it would be an invasion of privacy. It would be a good idea to look at that.” [Hannah on parents checking Direct messages].
On the least used feature of the phone: the phone:
- “And, so, I would just text my parents. I wouldn’t even call my mom or anything.” [Hannah].
- “Yeah, I’ll call my dad if I need to know something or if I don’t really know where I’m going for work, I’ll call him and ask him where I’m going. And he’ll usually answer. That’s really the only reason I use that for – to call my dad about work and stuff like that.” [Jacob].
On the ever-evolving social media landscape:
- “Facebook is probably the one that I never check, really.” [Hannah].
- “Instagram. Snapchat. An app called VSCO. Twitter.” [Hannah].
- “Umm…it’s more things that people wouldn’t post on their Instagram or Facebook.” [Hannah].
- “I have an iPhone, and I don’t even use the iMessages or the Facetime or anything. I use the other apps like Snapchat and Instagram to communicate with my friends.” [Hannah].
- “Kick, for me was a phase, really. I had it. All my friends had it. Then we used it for about three months and I was done with it.” [Hannah].
- “Everybody downloaded it all at once, and then they’re like within three or four months, ‘Why are we doing this? This is getting old.’” [Jacob].
On social media as a habit:
- “It’s a habit, honestly. As soon as I wake up, I look at all my messages and everything. That’s what I would say – it’s just a habit. Everyone else is doing it. It’s like a bandwagon. Everyone else does it, so I want to do it, too. I want to be in the in-crowd with everyone else.” [Hannah].
- “If I get a text from someone, I have to look at it. I have to open it. I cannot put it down. I have to look at it right away, immediately, and see what it is.” [Hannah].
On access to friends and content being more important than any single device:
- “Yeah, some of my friends do get their phones taken away. And then they rant about it and get so upset, and they’ll use my phone to log into their accounts and check things. She had her phone confiscated and she also had an iPod and an iPad so then she was still doing stuff on those two devices. And her parents didn’t know because they thought that they had taken her phone away, but she could still do the same stuff on her iPod and her iPad, but just without her phone.” [Hannah].
- “You just type in your username and your password and you’re in. I could log out of mine, and I could go onto Hannah’s phone right now and log into mine. Just like being on my phone with my account.” [Jacob].
- “As long as you have WiFi. Basically everywhere you go now, you have WiFi. If you need WiFi – I’m sure there’s one in here.” [Hannah].
On the future:
- “Yeah, my mom has warned me: ‘Don’t post anything stupid because your employers will look at that when you go to get a job. Be cautious about that.’” [Jacob].
- “Not only employers. Colleges, also. They all look through that. They look at that first.” [Hannah].
- “My basketball coach will go through stuff just to make sure we’re not doing anything bad.” [Jacob].
- “I’m not really scared of too much. I’m really cautious about what I post because my mom’s a teacher and she’s like, ‘If you do something like that, when you go for a job, if you apply to be a teacher, they’ll check something like that.’ So now I’m really cautious about what I post and even what I like. They can scroll back and see what you like. I don’t want to like something that’s bad and they go back and look at that and not hire me for something silly like that – that I did when I was 16 or 17 or 18.” [Jacob].