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For Parents: 5 Popular Social Media Platforms to Know

Thursday, February 01, 2018 7:35 AM

It's hard to find a kid or teen who isn't on at least one social platform these days. With new sites and apps popping up seemingly every day, many parents find it hard to keep up. Dr. Brenda HernandezChild and Adolescent Psychologist at NorthShore, understands this issue parents are facing, and has provided a breakdown of 5 of the most popular platforms and what parents should know:


Click on the corresponding text below to learn more about these 5 popular social media platforms:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Snapchat | Tumblr


Facebook is perhaps the most popular social media and social networking platform. You can use Facebook to connect with family members, friends, work colleagues, as well as meeting new people and making new connections. 


  • Facebook is used for sharing pictures and posting information that is important or relevant to you and to connect with others that share those interests. You can easily connect with them using wall updates, private messages and video chats.
  • It is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family long distance using the private chat or video chat feature.
  • Another real advantage of Facebook is that it’s a real-time social networking site. This makes it one of the best sources to stay updated with the latest news and information.


  • Cyberbullying is humiliating or publicly shaming others. To protect your teens from the dangers of cyberbulling, discuss what they know about it, how do (or would) they handle it, build empathy towards others and discuss general internet safety.
  • Users can spend unhealthy amounts of time on this platform.
  • Social comparison can lead to negative self-evaluations that can then lead to low self-esteem and a negative self-image of users.
  • Even though Facebook has simplified its privacy settings, many unknowing users still end up publishing private images and status updates publicly.
  • One should be careful about fake Facebook profiles, as they are usually created by stalkers or spammers. Also be aware of dangers of inviting/accepting friend requests from strangers.
  • Beware of posting inappropriate or compromising information and/or pictures. Remember the staying power of your internet footprint. When discussing this with your kids it may be useful to ask them: Would you be comfortable with a future boss or the principal of your school seeing this? Are you okay with your grandmother seeing this? Can someone that doesn’t like you use it against you?


Twitter is a free social networking service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts no longer than 280 characters called tweets. Twitter members can broadcast tweets and follow other users' tweets. 


  • The user can follow (and receive tweets from) anyone who interests them, from friends, favorite bands or celebrities, to organizations or brands. Posts can take the form of text, photos, videos, links and GIFs.
  • Updates are nearly instantaneous on Twitter, so it is like a news service, informing teens of the information that's most important to them, whether it's a world event or an upcoming party at a friend’s house.
  • Users get exposure to different perspectives on issues that are important or interesting to the user and find like-minded people.  
  • From initial communications on Twitter, people can then move to more personal communications such as to phone/Skype/email/meeting face-to-face, etc. 


  • Tweets appear immediately, and although they can be deleted, other users can repost or take a screenshot in the time before it is deleted.
  • Privacy is a problem if users keep their tweets public. It is best to keep settings to private and individually approve followers to minimize problems.
  • Twitter's location-sharing features allow users to post their whereabouts, which could lead to face-face interactions with strangers.
  • There is a lot of inappropriate content on Twitter (including inappropriate language and discussions about drugs and alcohol to name a few).
  • Twitter is also increasingly being used as a promotional tool for products and celebrities, though users can limit their exposure to ads and promotions by keeping their Twitter circles among real friends.
  • Sub-tweeting is when teens use Twitter to gossip about others. Sub-tweets don't specifically say the name of the target, but everyone knows who's being discussed. It can rise to the level of cyberbullying. Make sure your kids understand why it's hurtful, and teach them to stand up for others.


Instagram allows users to take, edit, enhance and post pictures instantaneously, and allows others to like and follow the user. 


  • Easy to share pictures and videos.
  • Instagram can be an excellent platform for kids to become producers and not just consumers of content. It can enhance users’ creativity, critical thinking and artistic skills. Users can learn photography skills and explore how to edit and modify photos using an array of filters and options.
  • Instagram also can bring awareness about important social issues or events to preteens. It can expose them to issues around the world and give them an opportunity to have a voice and get involved, whether it’s showing up for a fundraising event they found out about or posting positive words of encouragement.


  • Content can be viewed by everyone unless you have blocked that person, and unless the account is set to private, anyone can access and follow their pictures.
  • Instagram does not have any kind of filter to block nudity or inappropriate content.
  • Often preteens (especially females) feel social pressure to post inappropriate or suggestive picture of themselves for popularity and to avoid being “ranked” unfavorably in trends of rating young girls as “hot or not” and reading all the hateful comments that may accompany such rankings.
  • Related to this is “sexting”, sharing or exchanging sexually revealing pictures of themselves or sexually explicit messages to another individual or group.
  • Cyberbullying and online harassment are also potential risks on Instagram.
  • Oversharing information and a digital footprint are, as with all social media platforms, concerns to keep in mind. Remember the staying power of a social media digital footprint and how its permanence can have serious repercussions in future in both professional and personal areas of life.
  • Hidden information in photos that can lead to addresses of where the photos were uploaded, compromising privacy.


Snapchat users can upload an infinite number of photos or videos to share with friends. Users can share what is happening in their life and also see what other people has just posted in their history. It also works as a messaging app. What is different about Snapchat is that it allows users to set a 1- 10 second expiration for content. Users can send time-limited photos that might be embarrassing or just silly without a significant fear that it will find its way to other social media sites, where it might live forever.


  • Bonding with friends.
  • This platform allows kids to share stories with one another. Storytelling and other forms of artistic expression are also encouraged since users can edit their pictures.
  • It is another way for teenagers to find new information.
  • It can lead to less social pressure because there is no “like” button and snaps disappear after a few seconds.


  • There is a risk that anyone can take a screenshot and make the information you thought was private public. While the photo message disappears from the phone after a few seconds, it does not prevent the receiver from snapping a screenshot of the photo while it is live. To Snapchat's credit, if a receiver takes a screenshot of the photo, the sender is notified, but that may not be enough to prevent the photo from being shared later with others.
  • It is difficult for parents to monitor the content due to the limited time feature on the app.
  • Snapchat also has what is known as "Discover", when in the Snapchat app, a subscriber can click on "Discover" and see channels from content publishers with high ranking Snapchat channels. The problem is that many of these high ranking channels offer explicit adult content.


It is a blogging social networking website that allows users to post multimedia and other content including text posts, images, video, quotes or links to a short-form blog. Users can then follow other users' blogs. Bloggers can make their blogs private. It also has a messaging feature.


  • Posting photos and creating short blog posts can help teens find their sense of self and express themselves creatively.
  • It can help teens develop their interests. They can learn more about other people’s hobbies and talents, which may spark new ideas.
  • It can teach users about the world by having access to content written by people from all over the globe. It can expose them to new ideas and interesting concepts.
  • It encourages users to network with one another. Blog posts can be created collaboratively. This can help teens work with others and get to know new people.


  • Tumblr has been noted by technology journalists as having a sizable amount of explicit adult content.
  • Lack of privacy.
  • Users have also used Tumbler to create blogs that glorify or even encourage suicide, self-harm, eating disorders, etc.