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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Twitter is a free "microblogging" and social-networking site that brings up issues of safety, privacy, and a lasting digital footprint. The service allows users to post 140-character messages and follow their friends' activities. Updates appear immediately, and, though you can delete tweets, if other users have reposted them with a comment of their own, those tweets will remain. Teen users would benefit from keeping their tweets private and individually approving followers. Parents also should know that Twitter is 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. There's also loads of mature content. The app poses some additional issues. It can post the user's location (street name and city) with each tweet, but users must opt in to the feature. The recent addition of native video also has resulted in many more video ads appearing in the app, and they autoplay unless that feature is disabled in settings. Additionally, users can conduct a group private chat -- not visible to outside users -- which might worry some parents. Live-streaming features such as Meerkat and Periscope may contain all manner of content, so keep that in mind as your teens use Twitter.
What's it about?
TWITTER is an online social-networking and microblogging platform that lets users communicate through 140-character messages ("tweets"). Millions of people use it to keep up with news, gossip, weather, and more. Once you sign up, you can follow other users, who'll show up in a scrolling list of real-time tweets. A Moments tab premiered in October 2015, featuring "the best of what's happening on Twitter in an instant," according to the site, including sports, entertainment, and other tweets. Users also can stream live video into their feed.
Is it any good?
Twitter can be great for keeping in touch with friends or keeping up with what's going on in the world, especially trends in technology and breaking news. Twitter attracts a lot of Web-savvy users, but it isn't really meant for kids. The ability to post anything you want can get kids in trouble if they say something in the heat of the moment. The service's location-sharing features also make it too easy for kids to post their whereabouts, which can lead to face-to-face meet-ups with strangers. Finally, some tweets in the site's Moments section sound like plugs for various TV shows, and Twitter allows kids to receive tweets directly from celebrities they admire, such as sports stars, actors, and musicians. These messages can be extremely influential to impressionable minds (and are very often promoting products the celeb is getting paid to promote).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what's safe to post and what's not (for example, "prnts gone, party @ 123 main st tonite!!") and why it's a good idea for teens to limit tweeting to friends. How do you know if you can trust someone enough to make that person a "friend" with access to your private information?
For more information about Twitter, check out our video "What Is Twitter?" Does this make you want to use Twitter more or less?
Discuss what's a reasonable amount of time to spend using Twitter and related services, since it's very easy to get carried away. Why is it important to give yourself breaks from social media?
- Subjects: Language & Reading: discussion
Social Studies: citizenship, cultural understanding, events
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, asking questions
Communication: asking questions, conveying messages effectively, multiple forms of expression
Responsibility & Ethics: following codes of conduct
Tech Skills: evaluating media messages, social media, using and applying technology
- Genre: Social Networking
- Pricing structure: Free
For kids who love keeping up with friends and news
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