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New Data on Parents and What it Means for Youth Workers

5 Things You Need to Know

Work with teenagers? Yeah, you also work with parents, right? The folks over at Pew Internet just released a report on parent social media usage, let’s look at some highlights:

  • 74% of parents who use social media get support from their friends there.
  • 59% of social-media-using parents indicate that they have come across useful information specifically about parenting in the last 30 days while looking at other social media content.
  • 12% of all parents of children under 18 say they have ever felt uncomfortable about something posted about their child on social media by a spouse, family member or friend. Fully 88% say they have not felt this way.
  • Parents are particularly active on Facebook and LinkedIn, while non-parents use Instagram more frequently.
    • Parents who use Instagram are not as active as non-parent users. Some 54% of non-parents who use Instagram say they use the site daily, compared with 39% of parents.
  • The typical parent reports a median of 50 “actual” Facebook friends, while the typical non-parent counts 40 of their Facebook friends as “actual” friends.
    • Some 93% of younger parents (those under age 40) who use Facebook are connected with friends from the past.
    • Older parents, those ages 40 and above, are more likely to be friends with their children on Facebook.

What it Means for Youth Workers

  1. Facebook, Facebook, Facebook– the answer is Facebook. While Facebook’s popularity continues to wane with teenagers, Facebook is the dominant player with parents.
  2. Parents are looking for support, encouragement, and affirmation. I often see youth workers using Facebook for communication and resource sharing, this is good but it’s not really what parents are looking for. It can be really hard to gather parents, but many are online and willing to engage already. Consider creating a closed group for parents in your church or community, a safe place where they can encourage one another. Or maybe just make regular passes through parents in your life to be a positive, supportive voice in their life? (Alternatively, consider doing this via LinkedIn… their closed groups offer better moderation features.)
  3. Don’t forget about dads. The data shows that moms use social media more than dads, but not by much.
  4. Post good news about their kids! I think a lot of youth workers worry about that 12% of parents who might be uncomfortable when you post about their kid. Be mindful of them, but don’t forget about the 88% who don’t feel that way. Watch what happens when you post an update about something awesome their kid is doing, this is every parents love language. (Cough, job security alert!)

How are you engaging with parents on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn?

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Email like you could be hacked

A recent hack has left Sony Pictures Entertainment scrambling to apologize after emails were leaked. In these emails, executives trashed actors and made racially insensitive jokes about President Obama. Now, they’re left trying to backpedal and explain and apologize to everyone they discussed.

It’s not the first hacking scandal (think of many pictures of celebrities that were hacked from a cloud storage a while ago) and it won’t be the last. You’d think that leaders on that level would learn to be more careful, but evidently not.

Yet there’s a bigger picture here. If these emails had never been made public, the remarks about for instance the president would still not have been okay. They would have still been racially insensitive—and I’m using a much more politically correct expression here than they deserve. Continue reading Email like you could be hacked

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3 Trouble Spots for Teens on Twitter

According to a July 2011 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 18% of teenagers in America are using Twitter. That percentage of usage doubled over a two year period representing a major shift.

But teenagers aren’t using Twitter in the same way adults do.

Teens tout the ease of use and the ability to send the equivalent of a text message to a circle of friends, often a smaller one than they have on crowded Facebook accounts. They can have multiple accounts and don’t have to use their real names. They also can follow their favorite celebrities and, for those interested in doing so, use Twitter as a soapbox.


In no way do I want to sound alarmist. But I do want to point out a couple of things adults who minister to teenagers should be on the lookout for when it comes to teen use of Twitter. These aren’t hypothetical things, these are issues I’ve dealt with in the recent past or am dealing with now.

  1. Anonymity will lead to trouble – Unlike Facebook, where people are who they say they are for the most part, on Twitter you can pretend to be whomever you want. As long as you have a valid email address you can create an account… or many accounts. Many of us remember the problem of anonymity with Myspace or even the short-lived fad with For a student, anonymity seems great because only their friends know who is who. But the flip side is that when you get into a situation 1 or 2 layers outside of the original circle, you aren’t sure who anyone is. And teenagers are especially vicious online when they think they are acting anonymously. More often than not, they are just being silly or sarcastic or aren’t thinking anyone will take their words seriously. All too often that anonymity leads to feelings getting hurt because the recipient can’t tell if someone is being silly, all they know is that someone thinks they are ugly or promiscuous or unlikeable.
  2. Private circles – Teenagers aren’t using Twitter like adults. They will create an account for a small circle of friends, essentially using it as a group texting service. They almost always keep the circle all private users with accounts they only use for that circle. Because they can have several accounts, one for each circle, you might be confused to see that they have a public account that follows you. Just don’t assume that because a student follows you it means you are seeing everything they do.
  3. A digital fingerprint is a digital fingerprint – This is where texting & Twitter are different. While the data may flow through their text messaging service, it isn’t protected to the same extent as using Twitter. As with any social media site… you don’t own your usage and you can’t ultimately control who sees what. Students need to be taught to have an assumption that everything they do online leaves a digital fingerprint that may last their entire lifetime.

Like I said at the beginning. There is no reason to be alarmed that more of your students are using Twitter. But it might be a good idea to help them understand the ramifications of how they are using the service.

Are you seeing students use Twitter in your ministry? 

Photo credit: Garry Wilmore via Flickr (Creative Commons)