Social Media & Jesus: Part 3 – Three Kings of Social Networking

We’ve already talked about why you should care about social media. In the last post, we looked at six resources you can use to help you shepherd your family online.

Now I want to turn our attention to three kings of the social media landscape. None of these three networks will surprise you. My purpose in writing about these three kings of social media is to highlight how teens are using these apps and to point out a few features of the apps that you might not be aware of.

1. Facebook – The Falling Giant

For many adults, when you hear someone talk about social media, you probably first think about Facebook. In many ways Facebook reigns supreme in the realm of social media.

Except in one very important sphere: Teenagers.

Study after study reveals that teenagers are using Facebook less and less. And one of the biggest reasons? Old people.

Bianca Bosker, in this report for the Huffington Post, said, “Facebook is the living room. Twitter and Instagram are the bedrooms and rec rooms.”

Why would the teens want to hang with the adults when they can go somewhere else and do their own thing?

The point is this: Mom and Dad, if you think you know what your kid is doing online because your friends with your student on Facebook, you are sadly mistaken.

Most teens use Facebook to portray a family-friendly persona while using other apps that their relatives do not use in order to be teenagers, to push the boundaries, and to explore the deeper, darker taboos in life.

Facebook may be the first thing you think of when you hear “social media”, but don’t depend on it to keep tabs on your student’s social media activity.

2. Twitter – 140 Characters of Fun

Go follow me on Twitter - @ja_nichols
Go follow me on Twitter – @ja_nichols

If you’re a more in-the-loop parent about technology, you might not just think about Facebook but also other popular apps like Twitter. 

If you do not know about these other apps, you need to. 

Twitter lets users send out really short posts— there’s a limit of 140 characters for each tweet. 

Many students will have a Twitter account, but Twitter is rare in the fact that it is actually more popular with adults than with teenagers.

Content-wise, Twitter does have filters set for adult content, however like any other filter, it struggles to keep up with everything. If explicit content does make it on Twitter, it is usually through other networks like the Twitter-run Vine. 

Here are two items you need to know about navigating Twitter:

The Following List – If you’re student has Twitter, you need to be aware of who your student is following. The Following list is everyone that your student is able to see when they post. For the most part, you control what material you see on Twitter, so managing the the Following list with your student is crucial to using the app wisely.

Following List
Following List

Trending Topics – These keywords are what is most popular on Twitter right now. When your student clicks on one of these trending topics, he is able to read tweets from anyone using the keyword(s) including people who are not on his Following List. This is often where inappropriate content can find its way on Twitter.

Trending Topics
Trending Topics

3. Instagram – The True King of Teens

Instagram is probably the most popular app today among teenagers. Instagram is a photo-sharing site that allows users to also connect their photos to their other social media accounts. 

In an article on  about different apps argues, the author writes, “If there’s a network that parents aren’t on but should be, its this one.”     

Here are some important thing to know about Instagram when talking with your student.

Following List – Like Twitter, it is crucial to know who your student is Following. The Following list is every person that is able to share photos directly to your student.

Following List
Following List

Private Messages – Instagram allows you to send pictures to people privately. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. Private messages can be accessed by clicking the disc icon on the top right of the home screen.

The Favorites Page – Like the Trending Topics on Twitter, the Favorites Page (identified by the star in the bottom left of the screen) includes posts by people beyond the Following List and includes whatever is most popular on Instagram at the moment. It also includes a search menu that enables you to look for photos from different people or different topics.  In my discussions with students about purity and accountability in regards to Instagram, this is where the trouble can happen on Instagram. If your student is on this network, you need to have conversations about their experiences on the Favorites page.

Favorite Page
Favorite Page

Bottom line: If you want to shepherd your student on using social media wisely, you must talk with your student about how they are using Instagram. Its the first step.

Go follow me on Instagram - @ja_nichols
Go follow me on Instagram – @ja_nichols

You are probably aware of all three of these networks, and your student probably uses one, if not, all of them. You need to have consistent conversations with your student so that they can know how to navigate these social media networks with wisdom.

In the next post, we are going to look at a few more apps that are just as popular with the students but have for the most part managed to escape the knowledge of the adults. Stay tuned as we take a look at one app that has been called “the parent’s worst nightmare”.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you help your student navigate their use of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Are there any lesser known apps that you would like to know more about? Let me know by leaving a comment in the section below.


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