Twitter, a popular app among teens, lets its users send bite-sized tweets to connect with friends. Should parents be alarmed with their teens on Twitter?
Next to social media apps such as Snapchat and Facebook, Twitter a popular social networking app among tweens and teens. In fact, Twitter is rated as one of the “most important” apps by users aged 13 to 16 years old. Almost a third of teenagers in the U.S have Twitter accounts and they use it regularly. For these teens, they consider Twitter as a safe haven to share their thoughts and feelings about life.
Just like most social media sites, Twitter can also be a tool for cyberbullying. Lauren Batchelder, a student studying at Saint Anselm College, was a cyberbullying victim. Her opinion about Donald Trump leads to a deluge of tweets attacking her. Lauren said that: “I love social media, but I also saw the terrible side of social media.” She decided to stay away from social media and focused on other things. A single tweet can either build or destroy a person’s digital profile.
Since Twitter is a powerful communication platform, you need to understand how it works to protect your teens. Below are some of the things you need to know.
What is Twitter?
Twitter allows it users send messages – 140 characters in length – or post their status updates online. Photos, videos or links to other websites can be included in a user’s tweet. A user’s tweet can be retweeted or marked as “Favorite” by a follower. A tweet can go viral if it is retweeted by other users. Tweets cannot be edited but it can be deleted. However, retweeted tweets will not be deleted even if the original tweet was already deleted. Also, Twitter accounts are visible to the public by default, unless the user changes its privacy settings.
How teenagers are using Twitter
Smartphones helped change how teenagers communicate today. It is an important tool for them to communicate and gather information. They are using their smartphones to send tweets or receive news updates. President Obama’s candidacy and the Kate Middleton – Prince William engagement first surfaced on Twitter. Most teens rely on social media for current events. They also use their accounts to engage, follow and interact with their favorite celebrities. Compared to how adults use their Twitter accounts, teenagers today locked down their accounts to people that they care about. They are not interested in gaining many followers and prefer engaging with people with the same interests.
How Twitter can distract teenagers
Technology and media have become digital distractions. Teens check their smartphones for new tweets or status updates. Tweets happen in real time and teens cannot resist the urge to see what’s going on in their circles. Viewing tweets are hard to resist because they are “snackable” information. Since it is mobile, following interesting people or stories are easier. Teens are “wired for distraction” because of their exposure to technology. Most of them have developed shorter attention spans due to these distractions.
How Twitter can lead to different online threats
Lauren Batchelder’s cyberbullying case is just an example of a possible online threat on Twitter. A Dutch teen was arrested for tweeting a bomb threat joke to American Airlines. After her tweet went viral, several online pranksters joined in and kept tweeting American Airline’s bomb threat jokes. Their actions affected the company’s customer service which many travelers rely on. American Airlines had to deactivate their account until the issue was resolved.
As a parent, it is best that you talk to your teen about these types of threats. Make sure that they understand that their tweets will always be online. Remind them to talk to you if they experience online harassment. Together, you and your teen can prevent these threats and live better digital lives.
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Related article: A Parent’s Guide to Social Media