Teens are using Twitter. Are you surprised? A few years ago, this might not have been the case. But ask a few teens or ask their parents and you’ll learn that teen use of Twitter is growing. A 2011 Pew Internet Research Center study found that Twitter adoption by teens doubled between 2009 and 2011. Media stories earlier this year, from Fox News to the Today show, remarked on the number of teenagers flocking to the social networking site. The Today story, aptly titled “A little bird told me your teen is on Twitter”, suggests that some teens are running away from Facebook, seeking refuge now that their parents want to “friend” them.
Learn a few Twitter basics
When starting a conversation with your kids about their use of social media, it helps to speak the language. If you’re a parent who’s not tweeting, following, sharing, or chirping, you’ll want to learn some Twitter basics.
- Twitter Glossary – answers to pressing questions like, what’s a #hashtag?
- Twitter Basics – detailed help section
- Twitter Information for Parents and Teens – tips on protecting teens on twitter, how to deal with bullying, how to block a user, and more.
Issues specific to kids/teens on Twitter
There is no age verification when creating an account.
“Our Services are not directed to persons under 13… We do not knowingly collect personal information from children under 13….”
How do they know? They are not confirming the user’s age. If your child is under the age of thirteen and you find they have created a Twitter account without your knowledge, you can ask that it be removed.
Public sharing is the norm on Twitter.
On Twitter, most everything is public. While users can change their Twitter account to “Protected”, which means their tweets are only shared with users they confirm, that is not the norm. So unless your teen specifically changes their account to “Protected”, everything they share is Public on Twitter AND the Internet as a whole. (This is a double-edged sword for parents; if you find your child is on Twitter with unprotected tweets, at the very least you can view and monitor what they are sharing).
How do I know if my teen is on Twitter?
With any luck, they’ll tell you when you ask. Or, if you have a Twitter account, you can search by name (the name provided at sign up), Twitter user name, or search your contacts. To do so, go to the Discover tab as shown below, and then click Find Friends.
Will you find your teen’s account? Depends – savvy kids who don’t want to be found could create an e-mail account you don’t know about, use a fake name, and create a username you’d never guess. A social network monitoring service such as uKnowKids could potentially track down stealth social media accounts.
Talk, Talk, and talk some more
As always, talk with your kids about appropriate sharing on any social networking site. In our local paper there was a recent story about a group of high school students who posted derogatory statements about teachers on Twitter. Now a state lawmaker is considering legislation that would protect teachers from student’s cyber threats. And there is, unfortunately, no shortage of similar stories in the news.
My Links and Resources page has a number of website links that offer resources for helping you talk with your kids about their use of media and technology. I’m adding to the list all the time – with new social media sites, websites and apps cropping up daily, we as parents have to stay ahead of the curve…or at least attempt to run alongside our kids!