Thirteen year old boy text messaging to a friendI think it’s time to address social media again. The summer is in full swing, teens are out of school either working, volunteering, traveling, or just hanging out. Being away from school usually means there is less opportunity to see friends in person. This is the time when my teen patients teach me a variety of new applications for smartphones and social media outlets that they use to keep in touch with each other.

The tide of what is popular amongst teens is always changing. A few years ago Facebook was the popular way to connect; when I was in college, MySpace was the site everyone used. I can guarantee that next year, teens will be using a completely different list of sites to communicate with each other. Their quest: to speak to each other without adults snooping in.

As parents, one of our quests is to have a sense of what our teens are into at the moment in order to keep them safe. We try to know who is in their social circle and what they like to do with friends. We need to know if they are engaging in risky behavior and would like to be able to intervene to keep them safe and out of trouble. It is nearly impossible to keep up with all of the ways teens may communicate with each other, but the days of hiding in my room talking on a land line (that my parents could easily pick up in a different room to listen in on) are over. Teens may give you their Facebook account information, but they may only use Facebook to connect with Grandma. To talk with friends they may use SnapChat or OoVoo. They may have video blog channels on YouTube or stream live video of themselves (doing nothing or doing something they shouldn’t) on YouNow.

We have an entire category of blog posts devoted to social media and technology, including a past post that outlined some of the up and coming (or so we thought) social networking sites. The list below includes some of the latest applications for smartphones and tablets as well as social networking sites teens are using. True confession: I use quite a few of these apps to stay connected to friends and family.  My hope is that this list is not something to be afraid of, but can spark the conversation with your teen about what they’re using to stay connected to people.

kik – text without exchanging phone numbers

SnapChat – exchange pictures that ‘disappear’ a few seconds after they are viewed

whisper – tell secrets to an online community anonymously

Yik Yak – live feed of what ‘everyone’ around you is saying

Vine – watch and create videos

tumblr – online blogging with photos

twitter – social networking in 140 characters or less

Instagram – blogging with photos

Oovoo – video chatting

Whatsapp – real time text and photo sharing

Viber – real time text, video chat, photo sharing

Meerkat – live video streaming

YouNow – live video streaming

Now that we know some of the apps that are popular today, what should parents do with this information?

Dr. Megan Moreno has great tips for media safety that she has shared. Some important things to talk to your teens about include:

1. Don’t give out personal information to someone you don’t know in person – this includes your address, phone number, nude photos, etc.

2. If you post/stream/tweet it’s out there and you can’t take it back – deleting a post, sending something via SnapChat that seems to disappear does not mean it is gone. What is put into cyberspace stays there. It may be stored and difficult to access, but it is still there.

3. Don’t believe everything your hear – this may seem obvious to an adult, but a teen who is chatting with someone may not realize that the someone could have a fake profile picture or be using a false age. Adults are wary of online predators, a teen may not be. Talk to your teen about NOT meeting someone they’ve met online without supervision (even if this means they bring their favorite Aunt instead of their mom).

The list above will be different next year, but the idea behind connecting online will remain the same. Check out some of our past posts with tips on how to monitor social media:

Social Media, Sharing, and How to Respond with Teens Make Mistakes

Sexting and cellphones