In the United States alone Facebook.com has over 155 million users, with the largest percentage represented by the 25-34 age group. This may be why more and more teens are also beginning to use Twitter.com. According to a survey conducted in July 2011 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 12- to 17-year olds on Twitter doubled from 2008 to 2010. Twitter, a medium that requires short bursts of communication and doesn’t involve pictures or timelines–just words, allows teens to post their feelings frequently in a forum where perhaps their parents do not have a presence.
The Pew survey found that most teens are happy using Twitter for benign purposes like following their favorite artists, exploring adolescent angst, and passing along immature humor. Another faction may be using Twitter to aggravate and bully. In Bentonville, Arkansas three teenage girls were recently busted for creating an online burn book account (a book which contains bitchy comments about other people, often friends, school mates, etc.) on Twitter and another 12 year old girl was arrested for creating a “freeze book” which contained vulgar and derogatory thoughts directed at fellow students.
Across the country, school districts are trying to control this type of behavior with strong punishments and strict anti-bullying policies. Before it gets to that level, parents can play a part in how their teen behaves online. The Pew study showed that 87% of parents with teens online report discussing with their teens appropriate ways to behave online towards others. The study also showed that those teens who have received sexually suggestive texts and those who have experienced any type of bullying in the past 12 months are less likely (compared to teens who had not received or experienced these things) to say that their parents had talked with them about how to behave online.
Whether your child uses one social medium or three, it is in a parent’s best interest to sit them down and explain the ramifications of using social media and suggest to them appropriate ways to behave while on the web.