Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, Vine........each ap has its own special function. Our teens are addicted to "being connected" and each ap helps them maintain these connections. Facebook which was once considered taboo by many parents is probably the safest among all of these because so many parents have incorporated its use into their own lives. Teens are not necessarily wanting to hide things, but they crave the autonomy that all teens do, so they are perpertrating a mass exodus of Facebook in search of places with less parental traffic.
Most of the social website aps have safety features built in. For example, you can set your Instagram and Twitter accounts to private so you are only contacted by people you have approved. This features helps eliminate the possibilities of random strangers making contact with your child under false pretense. Vine and Facebook also require you to subscribe and/or create accounts to interact with other people, so again, this provides an element of safety. However, not all social networking aps offer these safety features.
One of the scariest social networking aps I have seen is called ask.fm. It is most popular in our area for 6th - 8th graders. Several years ago, a similar ap called Formspring was used and adolescent girls across the country were subjected to crude and degrading comments. Comments from"Kill yourself, no one likes you" to explicit sexual comments were being posted on the walls of girls as young as 10 years old. Educators in many schools stepped in and requested parents discourage their teens from providing an opportunity to be degraded this way. Now, the newest middle school fasination is Ask.fm, which operates very similarly to Formspring. Ironically, the majority of the posts on this ap are happy and positive. but it only takes one message telling a teenage girl how ugly she is to undo hundreds of positive ones. Ask.fm is based in the country of Latvia and is a popular (with just over 30 million users worldwide) social question-and-answer site for youth in the United States, United Kingdom and around the world. Unlike other similar sites, it does not offer parental controls and allows complete anonymity. Imagine having the freedom to say anything you wanted to anyone without them knowing it is you.......
So as we navigate these waters together, encourage you middle school children to keep their social networking accounts set on private. Have open conversations about the kinds of things that are inappropriate and for now, encourage them not to ASK.fm.