5 Changing Trends In Teens' Social Media Usage
Social media is a hit among today's teens. But no social networking site sustains their interest for long, as teens make capricious choices. Here are five changing trends in teens' social media usage.
By Dr Debarati Halder
Recently, I was invited by the Computer Society of India (CSI), Mumbai chapter, as panellist key speaker for the Cyber Frauds, Investigations and Forensics Conference 2019. During my session, the erudite audience asked me several thought-provoking questions on cyber security and law.
A majority of the audience consisted of individuals born after 1999, which means, they grew up in an era of digital socialising. There were a few who first got introduced to social media at the tender age of 10 or 11 years. But, what is interesting is the ever-changing trend in the use of social media, especially when it comes to teens. This has also caught the interest of law makers in different countries including the UNICEF.
While the latest preference is for photo-sharing apps, here are five changing trends in the ways teens use social media:
1. Adding virtual followers and not friends: Gone are the days when teens used social media solely for making virtual friends. As they began to understand that virtual friends can be risky, teens began creating profiles to add virtual followers instead of friends. Nowadays, the ever-increasing number of followers and the 'likes' they give seem to determine a teen’s popularity level, which also acts like a booster shot for the ego. Also, most teens no longer use words to express themselves. Instead, they use emojis and smileys. Looking at these can help a profile owner understand how many positive and negative followers he has. On the positive side, such use of social media is deemed safer as a follower can't communicate directly with a teen. The follower only gets to comment on the specific photograph or video or post the teen has permitted him to see. However, this type of social media use is not entirely risk-free, as a follower may start stalking the teen, bullying him or trolling his posts. This can be humiliating and threatening to the teen and even damage his reputation.
2. Creating groups: Now, this is definitely a positive change in teens' social media use. They have finally begun to understand who would make a trusted friend and who would be a frenemy. So, teens have started creating groups on Whatsapp and Snapchat. Most of the time, these groups include individuals whom a teen trusts such as schoolmates, relatives, neighbours and so on. In these groups, teens usually share updates, chats and pictures. However, problems can arise when someone from the group begins to behave strangely — for example, tries to bully the teen or begins to share fake news about her or insists on meeting and speaking with the teen in person. In such cases, a teenager must consider blocking the individual immediately, reporting the profile of the individual to the authorities concerned and informing adults in her family.
3. Displaying creativity and talent: Various social media platforms like YouTube and Vlogging are now used by teens for showcasing their creativity and talent through posts on travelling, performing arts, photography, pets, hobbies, DIYs and so on. Creative teens are using Instagram to connect with those who share a passion for photography and videos. But, these posts may also attract unwanted followers. It is, therefore, advisable that teens keep their profiles in private mode on Instagram. While most creative teens use social media in a positive manner, some try to learn skills that are considered disruptive and dangerous like learning to hack, making weapons creating content that violates copyright policies such as making mash-up videos of songs or movies.
4. Using as a source of infotainment: Teens turn to search engines to look for information they need, usually related to academics, hobbies, volunteering and so on. In their search for such information, they are directed to sites where the relevant theoretical information is available. But if teens want to go further in their search and look for visual content related to this information, they can look for videos or pictures on YouTube and Instagram. Teens have also begun using social media for searching and downloading apps which help them get everything customised according to their own choices, right from food to clothes to school projects. This has made them more independent.
5. Stalking and harassing teachers: A very disturbing trend that is catching up among teens is using social media to harass and stalk teachers who are strict and enforce discipline. Students use WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms to collect data about their teachers and then create memes, fake profiles and funny videos. They post these on YouTube and Twitter. Unfortunately, most teens don't know that they can be booked under various provisions of the Information Technology Act and Indian Penal Code for playing such pranks. They may even be suspended from their school, which can have adverse effects on their future. For example, they may fail to get admission in college or a potential employer may refuse to employ them when a background check brings up their past misdeeds.
Although children have become smarter, thanks to the explosion of information, they still need to be monitored and supervised by parents. This is necessary to help them develop a sense of responsibility and use social media in a positive manner.
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