Do you know what your kids are doing online? 5 communication apps you should know about

By Jessica E. Hamilton-Monroe


Jessica E. Hamilton Monroe is the founder of The Butterfly Scholars and Chrysalis Camera Academy initiatives, and is the host of the podcast Inside the Chrysalis under the auspices of Chrysalis Camera, LLC .



App # 1-Facebook


Description


Facebook is a social media platform that has gained much popularity with more than 2.4 billion active users. Each user creates a detailed profile of personal information and chooses interests in a variety of categories. Based on a person’s profile information, groups will be suggested to join, other users will be suggested to add as friends and advertisements will offer deals on items that a user would most likely buy. Users range in ages with the majority between the ages of 12 and 34. Interaction on this platform is heavily reliant on how many friends a person has and which friends a person has.


What are the benefits?

Facebook has such a wide audience that it makes it possible to find people whom you may not have normally interacted with. It suggests friends based on the groups that you are affiliated with and allows you to share information in multiple ways using feed posts and stories. Facebook LIVE is a new feature that


What are the risks?

While schools boast that they have Facebook pages, the minimum age for users to create a profile is 18. This means that teen users must fabricate their birthdates, leading other users to assume that they are older than they actually are. Even without the issue of age, there are many predators creating ghost accounts on Facebook for the purposes of scams. Even with a detailed account, a person may not actually be who they seem. Another major red flag is friend requests. Although users can choose who to accept as a friend, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of requests and flattered by the amount of interest. This is a big mistake. Many people, especially males, have been using Facebook as a means of online dating with the intention of having in-person relationships with the people they meet online.


How do you stay safe?

Know who your friends are. If you are in certain social circles, then you will have mutual friends to indicate that a user may actually know you. It may seem like a tedious process, but look through the profiles of people who request your friendship. If their picture is repeated multiple times or they do not show any images of themselves in their posts, it could be a ghost account. Pay attention to how long users have been a member on Facebook. Accounts that were created within the past few months are very suspicious. Users that connect with you on Facebook only to ask to connect with you on another platform such as Hangouts or What’s App may be trying to connect with you without being traced. Most importantly, don’t give your personal information or banking information to anyone.


What does the research say?

Although Facebook has been dominant in social media communication, users of Facebook are declining for a number of reasons. Some push factors include annoyance with continuous posts and the way that people in general present themselves on Facebook. Other users that have quit using Facebook mention irrelevant information overload and a lack of interest in the topics presented. One important pull factor is the availability of newer platforms


Does it have educational value?

Facebook's educational value relies solely on whether users are connected to friends and pages that provide accurate information. Most of the posts consist of opinions, challenges and advertisements.


Link to the app - www.facebook.com



App # 2-Instagram


Description


Instagram is one of the newer social media platforms that has gained more popularity than Facebook in the past year. With over one billion monthly users, the majority of active users are females. Instagram, like all social media, is a for-profit enterprise that embeds commercials within their logic and connectivity. (Maares, 2021) Instagram has popularized visibility politics with hashtag activism. This has been combined with a focus on visual culture, making Instagram the aesthetic representation of user personalities.(Caldeira, 2020). Instagram not only groups its users into interest categories, but use of it identifies users as either producers or consumers. Producers are those who spend time and energy with intentional focus on the content, layout and distribution of their posts. Their goal is to gain an audience by establishing a virtual persona that users can follow and connect with. Consumers are those whose purpose is to find the information that the influencers present within their interest category.


What are the benefits ?

Instagram allows its users to to post on any topic but encourages its users to focus their posts within a certain niche. By honing in on one’s interests, a person can not only find a community of people that are interested in the same activities but also be able to feel more comfortable sharing their original content with users of like minds. Instagram users do not always focus on posting pictures of themselves. “Of approximately 40 billion photos posted on Instagram, only 282 million are selfies - just 0.7%” (Caliandro, 2020) Many of the post feeds are themed and feature the topic of the theme such as motivational quotes or images of butterflies. Some visual artists only post pictures of their artwork while One of the newer features of IG stories allows users to post more immediate pictures and clips with music to represent their current moods. Followers are able to see stories of the day without having to scroll through post feeds. Another feature that is skyrocketing is IG LIVE. Many performing artists have been using this platform as a way of sharing their talents and hosting the talents of others.


What are the risks?

It is very easy to get addicted to checking your phone for likes and followers on Instagram. A major misconception is that getting followers is the most important part of being an Instagrammer. While it is validating to see that people are following your account, it may not necessarily mean that they are liking your content. Just like using the live feature on Facebook, IGLIVE is uncensored. Any viewer can request to participate in a live feed and if they are accepted by the host, their body and background will be immediately broadcast and saved into the feed. There are users who partake in drugs and drinking on camera, use profanity and wear clothing inappropriate for children to view. While each user has a prerogative to post and show what they represent, LIVE content is only regulated by the ethical maturity of those presenting. Just because viewers are not concerned with having youth in their audience doesn’t mean that children are not watching. Another feature to watch out for is sponsoring. Sponsored advertisements are sprinkled into feeds as a person views the posts of the people that they are following. They are intentionally designed to look interesting but link directly to sites where clothing and accessories can be bought. These advertisements are more likely for you to select because they too target an audience that follows similar themes. For example, if you have shown any interest in body image and fashion, you will be targeted for advertisements of cosmetics, fitness clothing, and accessories. Because there is such competition in the market, there may be several companies selling similar products. This increases the amount of ads that you see and increases your likelihood of purchasing something.


How do you stay safe?

Follow your children on Instagram. Not only will you be able to see what they post, but you will be able to show them support for their interests by liking and commenting on their content. Instagram can be accessed at any time and IG LIVE shows are broadcast at all times of the day. Be aware of the times of phone use and set a cut off time for viewing so that they are not viewing and participating in the late night LIVEs that usually have more questionable content. Discuss rules of netiquette with your children so that they interact respectfully and do not post something that they may regret in the future.


What does the research say?

Instagram is dominated by opinion leadership. When users become important sources of advice or content, they gain more followers. Because of this, Instagram is getting a steady increase in active users related to the fashion industry. (Casalo, Flavian & Ibanez-Sanchez, 2020) Opinion leaders influence the decision making of others because they are regarded as an expert with reliable information on their focus topic.


Does it have educational value?

Instagram can have educational value if a user follows businesses and influencers that provide reliable information about topics on a consistent basis. Since it requires an account to participate, it is also not intended for users under the age of 18. While its niche audiences may contribute to a collective information sharing, further research is needed to determine whether the Instagram platform could be useful to educators in the classroom.


Link to the app - www.instagram.com



App # 3-YouTube


Description


YouTube is the largest video-sharing platform with more than one billion users. (Tang, 2021) It was launched in 2005 to enable subscribers to create, upload and share original content ranging from homemade videos to movie scenes. It highlights the emerging participatory culture in which people acquire information on demand and simultaneously interact with others. (Dubovi, 2020) The YouTube social media platform is focused more on the presentation and sharing of video content. It is the very definition of on demand television because users get to select what they want to watch. With YouTube, users are also identified in three ways. The first type of user is the casual channel surfer. The casual surfer may visit YouTube once a week to look for information on a topic that they are currently interested in. Then there is the subscriber who may interact with YouTube daily. Subscribers have specific interests and gather playlists of channels that they go back to view repeatedly. Subscribers have loyalty to channels that post frequent video content that matches their interests. As a result, subscribers request notification of future video posts and usually utilize the comment feature where feedback and opinions can be posted on specific videos. The third type of YouTuber is the content creator. Although content creators may not be on YouTube daily, they are essentially creating video content 24/7. These creators are immersed in specific genres and document their ideas, opinions, talents and emotions with the use of video editing and the YouTube platform to share with the world.


What are the benefits ?

YouTube stands out in its searchability. Users are able to type the topic they are searching for as a query and receive an endless list of related video resources. YouTube does have its own monitoring feature and separates videos that are made for adults from the ones that are made for kids. Videos made for kids are confirmed to have no advertisements, not profanity and removal of sexually suggestive of questionable content. Another benefit is that as a user, there is no commitment to staying with a particular channel. Users are free to add and remove the channels they subscribe to and even report videos that they feel are breaking rules of netiquette.


What are the risks?

The two major issues with viewing YouTube content is misinformation and targeted advertising. One of the forms of misinformation is within the ‘fitspiration’ movement. Fitness YouTubers have been found to promote unhealthy behavior