A Teen Speaks: Are Parents Driving Teens to Facebook Alternatives?

By Amy Summers 

Teenagers aren’t the only ones who have flocked to Facebook. The generation before us, our parents, have also turned to the social media great for communication, games and, of course, a bit of online stalking.  With easy access to all of these things in one place, it is no surprise that our parents have joined the site; after all, they are people too. However, one question remains: is Facebook big enough for all of us?

It appears not. Many teenagers, particularly younger adolescents, are seeking alternative social networking sites in order to escape their parents and other family members. That’s not to say they have given up on Facebook altogether; in fact, many people I know keep their Facebook account active while using a variety of other programs.

The truth is that now, with the range of age groups on Facebook, we have to be extremely careful about what we post. What was once a platform upon which teens could openly voice thoughts and opinions has become a censored sharing zone for friends and family alike. I mean, I even have my grandma as a friend on Facebook! I don’t want her seeing any photos of me that are less than angelic. Imagine if someone had their grandparents and their parents and their aunts and uncles as friends on Facebook and a friend tagged a photo of them intoxicated at a nightclub with their skirt above their belly button. Certainly not appropriate. Then again, I wouldn’t want anyone seeing me like that, photo or otherwise.

My point is there are things we say in front of our grandparents and things we don’t. I wouldn’t dare swear when in conversation with dear old Nan but dropping a few profanities in conversation with a friend is perfectly acceptable. That’s perfectly normal. There are ways we talk to our friends, ways we talk to our parents and ways we talk to our grandparents, and that goes for online conversations too. There are some things that we might post that simply aren’t appropriate for all age groups on Facebook, thus the trend towards other forms of social media.

Snapchat has become a popular one of choice, particularly among young teens. I have three sisters, aged 14-18, and all of them are constantly snapchatting their friends and boyfriends. If I’m being completely honest, Snapchat isn’t for me. In fact, up until recently when a few of my friends in their late teens/early twenties got Snapchat, I thought it was an app mainly used by 12-year-olds who had all this spare time to sit there sending constant streams of random photos. Sending a photo that can be viewed for no longer than ten seconds just doesn’t make sense to me. Especially when so many people only send random images and set them to be viewed for one, three, five seconds. Time filler? I think so.

In a way I guess it’s just a result of technological change. Teenagers have always wanted to be connected with their friends. Thirty odd years ago it was our grandparents wondering what our parents and their friends possibly had to talk about on the phone when they had seen each other all day and would see each other all day the next day and all day the day after that. Then it was constant texting, before smart phones, when it was either that or the snake game on the early Nokia phones (Apple was yet to release the iPhone) to cure boredom. A few years ago it was MSN chat. Now I guess it’s Snapchat.

As for Facebook alternatives, there also seems to be a lot of movement towards Twitter. I know plenty of people who have had a Twitter account for ages, but have only started using it in the last six months. Even my local football club has introduced Twitter as the place to post training times and other notifications rather than use Facebook groups.  Signal an overuse of #clubtwitterinvasion, which is highly annoying, but hashtags are another story!

We now have to censor the content on our Facebook pages and because of this many teenagers are opting to use alternatives. I think it’s great that people of all ages can connect online, sharing statuses, photos and check-ins and I honestly believe that Facebook will continue to be a popular social media site for years to come. However, teens, particularly young teens, are curious beings. Combine this with the fact that they enjoy having an outlet for themselves and their peers without parental supervision and we are going to see them continuing to look for different places to connect online. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just the way it is.