When I agreed to write this blog… it was supposed to be about how teens use social media, a guide for parents.
This is how it started…
‘Hey… I am writing a blog on how teens use social media…’
‘I am writing a blog on how teens use social media… can I ask you some questions?’
‘Ughhhh!’ Teen doesn’t look up.
I hesitate…and try again.
‘There’s just a few things I want to ask you?’
Deep sigh and roll of eyes, ‘WHAT?!’
‘Ok, so which platforms do you use?’
‘What… what do you mean???’
Leaves room and goes upstairs…
This is generally the start of a conversation with my 14-year-old… but I didn’t give up there. No, I persisted and this is what I found out.
No surprises here, she, like many 14 year old girls mainly uses Snap Chat and TikTok, Instagram a little and Facebook is for old people.
Want to know more?
She’s pretty savvy… she knows more than I do about how to navigate around a social media platform. And with such speed! She makes TikToks look like short movies, has more drafts than in her feed (the fun is in making them), can edit, add music, knows what every filter does, can block people without a second thought and knows to only add her close friends to her snap-map.
For those of you who don’t know – a Snap Map is where they can see where their friends are at any given time. I am equally as repelled by this as I am fascinated. Their avatars show up on a map and you can turn it on or off and add close friends or everyone.
But it was not always this way. I don’t recall when she first started using socials but she has an older sister and well, what the older one does the younger tends to do it earlier.
There were some breathe-through-it moments in the early days.
I would often question my rather relaxed approach to it all. Is this ok? Was it appropriate? The problem was all the other parents were in the same boat – we were like the blind leading the blind. There was no one ahead of us to show us how to do it. We were the first wave of parents navigating the dramas over who has blocked who, feeling conflicted when shown pictures of their friends – tweens being a little too provocative. And the FOMO, or which was more KIMO – ‘know I’m missing out’, as they watched stories of friends out together which they hadn’t been invited to. That one always stung.
Yet we got through it. I made myself available for conversations, showed an interest when required and asked questions whilst throwing in the occasional lecture: ‘be kind, always have a private account, block any weirdos.’ We have got to the point where I can trust her, at 14 she pretty much knows what she’s doing. Yes, she poses in ways which make me feel uncomfortable but she’s not doing it for me, or you, or the pervs we think are watching, it’s for herself and her mates. If your bestie’s dad can see your daughter’s account and feels uncomfortable he can always block or mute her.
I could write pages on why social media is harmful and yes there are plenty of problems, but this is not what this blog is about. To be honest there are just as many positives.
During lockdown social media was a lifeline for my girls. Girls are sociable beings, it’s where they get their energy. Their whole life is shared with their friends through mainly snaps. It’s how they all connect and learn about life.
They know it’s now illegal for a boy to send photos of certain parts of their bodies. ‘Ewww… Muuum – no one does that!’. Ooops, sorry I asked!
The school likes to get involved… which saves me from having to do a lot of it.
‘Do you know how to be safe online?’
‘Mum – we’ve been learning about that since year 7’. Thank you to all schools who start the conversation so I don’t have to!
Here are their latest school rules: Pupils are not allowed to take photos of anyone without their consent, or screen shot photos from others accounts. If any photos are found on a phone that’s been taken within the school grounds, or you have shared a photo you can get into trouble.
I tend to agree – it’s not a popular opinion with my teens as ‘it’s funny’ but taking photos of people without them knowing and sharing with friends so you can all have a laugh does seem a little… well stepping over personal boundaries which now surpass the space around us. It makes sense that we have some rules around that.
Ah well, I thought, let me try with my older teen.
She’s 17, and has been using social media for years. This was her opener.
‘You see mum, that’s why you know nothing about social media.’
Oh. Well, no, I probably don’t when it comes to the life of a teenager but I do when it comes to marketing – that’s the difference. When we use socials for our business we kind of assume we know about social media. Yet for our teens it’s very different. Their whole lives are played out on there but not the way you and I do it. It’s not about sharing photos of where they have been or their meal out. You know those asides, whispers and comments we would make when out with a friend, they do the same, but they share them on snap stories and everything is funny!
Remember when you too laughed at everything? There is something warm and comforting about it all. I love the stories she tells me. I love that she takes a pic of nice dinners I make to share it with her group of girls. There are different levels of groups – a larger girls group and then a smaller group with just her close friends – and usually a break-out group to talk about something that’s happening in the other group.
Everyone they have ever met is on there – and this is normal.
They become friends with friends of friends just through social media, and then they meet in real life. The same goes for boys – it can be where friendships and relationships begin. I can imagine online dating will just become defunct one day… you like someone on Instagram, you start messaging and it goes from there.
When I asked her about her thoughts on younger kids using TikTok she had something to say about it. Everything is on there, there is barely any censorship and a lot of the trends are quite sexual, yet 10 year olds have accounts. TikTok is also a space where they test their boundaries. She has taken some down that were going viral because of the content and the comments and because she felt uncomfortable. They learn a lot about the world this way and yes, I have to hump in with the odd ‘not everything on TikTok is true’, but it does lead into some interesting conversations. And believe me, they are very aware of the world they are in and how to navigate it.
So, writing this blog got me thinking about where it’s all going.
Naturally that led me to virtual worlds and the merging of social media into gaming and the Metaverse. With two Gen Alpha’s at home, 10 and 7, I became curious.
The kids of course, won’t be interested in this as a concept.,.. they are simply doing it already. It’s a natural part of their world. Take Roblox, and, this is not just for the younger ones. My teens, niece and their friends play. Each of my children have their own Roblox account. It’s where social meets gaming, a virtual world where they converse with each other and spend robux. And it’s becoming an increasing way of how kids socialise. It’s not an uncommon sight to find three or four of my children all sat together playing the same game each on their own device, their avatars conversing and interacting.
For my 10 year old boy, Fortnite is where he hang’s out. A free, immerse experience where the player interacts with friends and life in a virtual universe. He spends hours communicating with his friends and taking part in battles. The fact that my boys are asking for robux and V-bucks (Fortnite’s currency) is the beginning of something few of us can yet explain or put words to, least of all comprehend. It’s possibly where social media is going and they will manage it as smoothly as the generation before them. We have to trust them… it’s their world.
Thank you so much, Vicky!
Vicky is a mother of 5, a recovering creative and business owner.
Vicky utilises her background in marketing, creative writing and bringing up and homeschooling children (before everyone was doing it), to support business owners in finding creativity, freedom and success in their marketing, helping their personality and brand shine through.
CreatiV Communications started 3 years ago, and Vicky offers several services to fit every budget. She recently launched her CreatiV Content Club, where she brings inspiration and accountability together, helping business owners create their own content.
After spending most of her adult life in London, she lives in Bristol with her children, takes inspiration from everyone and everything, is often curious and is constantly learning.
Follow Vicky on Instagram here.