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Teens say 'later' to Facebook, shift to photo chats

The youngest smartphone users are moving to new social apps like Snapchat that can be harder to track.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 20, 2013 1:50PM

This post comes from MSN Money contributor Michelle V. Rafter.


My 14-year-old niece Jennie got her first smartphone in December, so she can -- finally -- send texts and goof around online with the rest of her eighth-grade buddies.


But you’ll never see Jennie and her BFFs on Facebook. They don’t even have accounts. They’d rather swap silly pictures and texts using smartphone apps like Instagram and Snapchat.


As kids go online at younger ages and use smartphones to do it, they’re choosing to spend their time with apps built specifically for mobile devices over other more well-established, Web-centric social networks. That’s bad news for Facebook, which not that long ago was the upstart network that knocked off MySpace as the place where the cool kids hung out.


Facebook countered last year by paying $715 million to buy Instagram, a free app that people use to add filters and other effects to smartphone photos they share with friends online.

Boys using a smartphone to take a photo (© Juliet White/Digital Vision/Getty Images)Snapchat, the other free social network app tweens and teens are flocking to, lets users take smartphone pictures that self-destruct seconds after they’re received. The company recently added videos, which last for 10 seconds before going "poof." The number of photos Snapchat users send ballooned from a total of 110 million in the app’s first nine months to 60 million a day by early February, according to a New York Times article.


Young fans have helped make Instagram and Snapchat the third- and fourth-most popular free photo apps for Apple iOS, and the Nos. 19 and 22 most popular free apps overall, according to mobile app researcher AppData.


Sexting and cyberbullying
Kids who've grown up hearing their parents lectures on the dangers of posting inappropriate material online like the ephemeral nature of Snapchat, which many use to send "selfies," pictures of themselves posing, making faces or being silly.

But the very fact that Snapchat images don’t last also makes it ideal for "sexting" and cyberbullying, digital culture experts say. And while Snapchat photos aren't built to last, users can take a screenshot of what they're sending or receiving, if they're fast enough.

Stories of tween girls misusing Instagram for cyberbullying also are common. An acquaintance recently shared how friends of her middle-school age daughter took Instagram pictures of themselves at a sleepover and sent them to girls who weren’t invited to rub in their faces the fun they were missing.

The smartphone-native social networks’ popularity with tweens and teens comes even though both have terms of service clearly stating they are not intended to be used by anyone under 13. Snapchat recommends that minors over 13 ask for parents’ permission to use the application.

That doesn’t stop some parents from opening accounts for their 10- or 12-year olds, says John Breyault, vice president of public policy at the National Consumers League, the consumer advocacy organization.


"You need to look at the terms of service," Breyault says. "With as much information sharing going on, as many privacy concerns people have and as much trouble as you can get into, the days of parents clicking accept and not reading through it are numbered."


Developers of parental-control software are hustling to keep up with kids' evolving social network preferences. debuted a $9 monthly service in September that approximately 1,500 families have signed up for to monitor their child’s or children’s Facebook accounts. An update slated to be out March 11 will extend tracking to Twitter and Instagram accounts.


Among other features, parents can sign up to get daily or weekly email digests with detailed recaps of their kids' activities on all three sites. co-founder Chris Crosby says he’ll keep adding social networks to the control dashboard as more teens use them.


"We’re looking at Tumblr and Google+, which is still in its infancy with teens, but we’re seeing more of them use it," he says.


Whether or not parents use net-nanny software, experts urge them to keep tabs on their tweens' and teens' online activities. That could mean Mom and Dad controlling younger kids' social network user names and passwords, and having frank discussions with older teens about the ramifications of bad online behavior, Breyault, says.


“Obviously when children are sharing photos of themselves with their friends, it’s normal for parents to be more concerned,” he says.

If parents really want to stay on top of things, they should use the social networks too, Breyault says. "If your kids are on them, get on there and figure out how they work so you understand where your child is coming from."


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Feb 20, 2013 5:21PM
Everybody ought to have to go a week without devices at least once a year.  For these kids, it should be 4x per year... for the good of our future and theirs.  This living through a little screen is just crazy.
Feb 20, 2013 3:54PM
Of course many teens hate being tracked as they are anonymous little cowards--texting, sexting, yakking, scrolling,  all hung up on looking down at some screen on some digital gizmo.  No wonder the so called millenials are getting fatter and dumber by the month.  I thank God I am not a parent...I'd be hounded by Childrens' Protective Services for doing 24-7 nagging.  That is my name, not some dumb lame fake name. 
Feb 20, 2013 2:17PM
Good,,,phuckfacebook needs to collapse on its butt!
Feb 20, 2013 5:22PM

They're all going to have neck problems later in life, too... from looking down all the time.

Feb 24, 2013 2:50PM
Take all that crap away from them.  Spoiled brats.  Make them do their homework and get some exercise out of the house.  
Feb 28, 2013 11:53AM

Funny story... my nephew was over helping me and  was checking his phone every 5 min. So I asked him what was so important ... he was trying to get this girl in his class to go out with him. So being the great uncle that I am I told him to give me the phone .... no way what are you going to do he asked ?

I said I'm going to call her and I would tell him what to say to ask her out. That went over like a turd in the swimming pool. You can't do that .. I'll would be made fun of at school ???????????


Here is a question for all ....... We have said for generations we want our children to have it better than us ! Most kids do have it a lot better than the parents .. but when do you say NO  ! Crap this generation is doomed we have set the easy bar so high ! How will the kids of today make it so their kids have it better ???????



Feb 21, 2013 2:11PM
safe haven?  umm, can't someone still screen-shot your "temporary" photo, post it anywhere and keep it forever?
Feb 28, 2013 3:06PM
Great, I can only imagine the photos kids are now going to take of themselves and send to others.  Wonder how long it'll be before a 14yo sends a topless photo to her boyfriend who is in his room with a video camera recording the image(s) being received...sickening...
Feb 26, 2013 6:58AM

You can't take the devices away from the kids, it sounds like a good thing to do but the suicide rates would double !

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