Popular social media Sites for teenagers

In an age when many parents worry about their teens spending time on social networks, Peggy Hernandez said she trusts her 16-year-old daughter.

“When my daughter was 14, she started becoming more independent with social media, ” the at-risk youth counselor from Sheridan, Colo., said. “It’s my privilege to look at her phone, but I’ve given her more privacy. That’s part of their identity nowadays. That’s how they express themselves and how they learn. I’m not saying I totally want to embrace it, but I have to understand and expect it.”

Hernandez does check her 16-year-old’s phone and Internet use periodically, but doesn’t friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. She said she’s seen enough of her daughter’s tweets and writing to step back. “I trust her in the sense that she’s very well-grounded, ” she said.

Hernandez’s daughter Madelyn is one of the 80 percent of teens online using social networking sites. Just more than half of that number also have accounts on more than one site, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Facebook, with 1 billion users, is still the most popular social network. However, with parents also on Facebook, many teens are looking for other places to build their identities and communicate with friends.

Alice Marwick, an assistant professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, said that Facebook is challenging for teens because they want to share with a smaller group of friends. “Basically it’s called contact collapse, ” she said. “This is especially difficult for teenagers, to also mix in with their day-to-day friends with parents, coaches and teachers.”

Madelyn Hernandez agreed. “I do have family that requests to be friends with me on Facebook and I don’t say yes, ” she said. “It’s not that I have things to hide on Facebook, but I don’t want my family all up in my business…They have something to say about everything.”

Pew also tells us that 61 percent of online teens reported that their parents have checked their profiles. Another 39 percent of parents have friended their children, which is “associated with an increased likelihood of parent-child conflict over social media.” Perhaps this is the reason that 36 percent of teens surveyed by Common Sense Media said they wished they could go back to a time before Facebook.

“Facebook is kind of the Walmart of sites, ” Marwick said. “You can get all of your stuff from there, but teenagers want to buy from the Gap or Hot Topic. There’s an appeal to using different sites.”

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