What should parents know about Twitter?
You probably know about Twitter -- the microblogging service that features 140-character "tweets" -- but you may not realize how much of a staple it is in teens' social media lives. According to the Pew Research Center's Teens, Social Media & Technology Report, 33 percent of all American teens use Twitter and average 95 followers (for teen girls the average climbs to 49 percent with 116 followers).
What teens like about Twitter is that they can follow (receive tweets from) anyone who interests them, from their best friend to their favorite band to the hottest new celebrity -- even brands they like. Posts can take the form of text, photos, videos, links, and GIFs. And because updates are nearly instantaneous on Twitter, it's like a news service, informing teens of the information that's most important to them, whether it's a world event or a high school dance.
But Twitter has some safety, privacy, and digital-footprint issues. Here are the key concerns to discuss with your teen.
Think through your tweet. Tweets appear immediately, and -- though you can delete them -- it's possible that other users could repost or take a screenshot in the span of time it takes to hit delete.
Be as private as possible. Teen users would benefit from keeping their tweets private and individually approving followers to minimize problems.
Don't use location services. Twitter's location-sharing features also make it too easy for kids to post their whereabouts, which has been tied to public-party notices that get out of hand and face-to-face meet-ups with strangers.
Avoid age-inappropriate content. There's loads of mature content, mature language, and drugs-and-alcohol-related content on Twitter, and it's up to users to avoid seeking it out. Twitter is also increasingly being used as a promotional tool for products and celebrities, though users can limit their exposure to ads and promotions by keeping their Twitter circles among real friends.
Beware of "sub-tweeting." Sub-tweeting is when people -- typically a group of popular kids at a high school -- use Twitter to gossip about others. Sub-tweets don't specifically say the name of their target, but everyone knows who's being discussed. It can rise to the level of cyberbullying. Make sure your kids understand why it's hurtful, and teach them to stand up for others.
Learn more about the pros and cons of Twitter and how to help your kid use it safely and productively.