Is Twitter Safe for Teens? – WHS 142

In last week’s podcast I gave a general overview of how you can promote a safe mobile experience for your kids. I want to expand on that in the upcoming weeks by discussing various social media platforms, how teens are using them today, and whether or not it’s safe for your teens to be using these platforms.

Is Twitter safe for teens?

Note my use of the word “teen”. This is important. Many social media networks unless they are specifically designed for younger kids have a minimum age requirement of 13. There are many good reasons for this and hopefully you’ll learn why I’ve chosen to wait to introduce my kids to social media.

This week I’m talking about Twitter.

Twitter describes itself as a service that “helps you create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” It is a micro-blogging service that is mostly used to share information and news. It used to be more about brief conversations but that has change over the years.

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Quote of the Week

“Education is a fundamental principle of what made America a success. We can’t afford to throw any young people away.” —Dr. Benjamin Carson

Do teens use Twitter?

A teen wrote an article on Medium about how his generation views certain social media platforms. I’ll be referencing this article throughout the series. He had this to say about Twitter:

To be honest, a lot of us simply do not understand the point of Twitter. There is always a core group at every school that uses it very religiously to tweet and another group that uses it to simply watch or retweet, but besides that many don’t use it. It also isn’t extremely easy to find friends on the site and many just use it to complain about school in a setting where their parents/family members (not necessarily employers) are likely not to see it.

Twitter is a place to follow/be followed by a bunch of random strangers, yet still have your identity be attached to it (this distinction will be important later on). Your tweets are also easily searchable on Twitter which is good but not good if you want to be yourself and not have it follow you around when you’re trying to land a job. Thus, to others Twitter is used like Facebook—you post with the assumption that your employer will see it one day.

There are then three main groups of Twitter users: the ones who use it to complain/express themselves, the ones who tweet with the assumption that their prospective employer will eventually see whatever they are saying, and the ones who simply look at other Tweets and do the occasional RT.

Basically, teens are out there using Twitter but it’s not really a service that keeps them glued to their smartphones.

Is Twitter safe for my teen?

Twitter is relatively safe. There are some security and privacy settings which are very helpful. Objectionable content is easy to find just like any other service and there are ways to have Twitter notify you if the content in your feed may be objectionable.

The best way for your teen to stay safe on Twitter is to make their profile private by enabling “protected Tweets”. This means that only accounts your teen personally approves can follow their account. Turning off location services, photo tagging, and other personalization features will also help. In addition, you’ll want to make sure your teen has the option disabled to display “sensitive media”.

Overall, I’d say that if you and your teen are careful and you have good communication Twitter is a great service for getting up-to-date news and information about the things you like. I recommend it for teen 16 and up but you may determine that it’s safe enough for younger teens. Ultimately, you must decide what is best for you and your family.

Speaking Schedule

I will be speaking at CFHE Homeschool Conference on March 13th, 2015 at 5:30 PM EST via Skype. My topic will be one I get a lot of requests for: A Parent’s Guide to Making Friends Social Media.

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Music for the podcast by Kevin Macleod.

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