Nowadays the world presents state-of-the-art technology and new opportunities, allowing us to be connected to the Internet around the clock. Teens and tweens tend to spend many hours looking for photos, videos, or chatting with their friends on social media. While some of the mentioned activities can be positive and supporting, others may be potentially offensive and risky for teens, tweens, or both of them. This paper focuses on the identification of the role of social media in the lives of teens and tweens via such themes as Finsta versus Rinsta accounts, potential risks of using social media for the specified population, and laws regarding communication on social media.
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To examine the identified themes in an in-depth manner, it seems essential to clarify some key concepts. First, there is a need to differentiate between tweens and teens. The former is usually defined as a stage of human development after childhood (10-12 ages), and the latter refers to independent youth aged between 13 and 19 years old that is also called adolescence. While tweens are more hyperactive and closer to kids in using social media, teens tend to be engaged in various activities such as messaging or communicating on forums (Davis & James, 2013).
At this point, media is regarded as computer-mediated technologies, which promote information sharing, a range of forms of expression, and participation in social networks. In general, with the transformation of tweens into teens, one may note changes in their online activities, namely, the becoming of more experienced users. There are several perspectives, from which it is possible to comprehend the lives of teens and tweens in social media.
Finsta Versus Rinsta Accounts
Using the slang of modern teens and tweens, it is possible to compare their behaviors in Finsta (fake Instagram) and Rinsta (real Instagram). The latter refers to a real Instagram, the platform providing the opportunity to share videos, photos, and stories, and Instagram is the second Instagram used primarily by teens (Homayoun, 2017). Instagram is a place for image creation and a struggle for social acceptance.
The users try to share their best photos and stories to gain more likes and followers, thus increasing their self-conception and fake support. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Instagram users are younger adults, who present every single step in their lives, including their babies’ meals, sleeping, walking, and any other personal details (Madden et al., 2013). At the same time, Shamberg (2013) claims that tweens are attracted by memes and fun filters – the factors that are not so popular on Facebook or, let us say, Twitter. Some parents are concerned about the content their tweens observe on Instagram pages as there may be inappropriate words, nude photos, and even provocative videos.
Finstagram accounts are more popular among teens who seem to be overwhelmed by thousands of followers who cannot provide them with what they want. Among such issues, one may note the intention not to feel lonely and struggle with depression. Teens use Finsta accounts, which only their “besties” know of, to share personal photos without any filters and Photoshop processing and receive trustful comments and sincere support.
They strive to avoid the pressure of Instagram promoting ideal beauty and appraisals. In other words, Finsta helps teens, especially the female ones, to create a space for close friends. Another essential point is associated with the fact that plenty of parents have no idea about Finsta as one of the reasons for the appearance of the mentioned network was parental spying. In response to the parental following of their children’s accounts, the latter moved to other accounts to ensure their privacy.
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Comparing behaviors of teens and tweens on Instagram, it is safe to assume that both of them express their identity, life, friends, and other important issues by using this social network (Davis & James, 2013). However, perhaps, due to their age peculiarities, tweens tend to use Rinstagram and follow its direct purpose of sharing perfect photos and making short videos. In their turn, to stop parental spying and build close relationships, teens create Finstagram accounts and share the most intimate content. At the same time, teens allow their parents to follow and control their Rinstagram accounts, thus creating a mirage of truthfulness.
Risks of Using Social Media by Teens and Tweens
Even though every social network has its security provisions such as a unique login password, login, alignment with e-mail, etc., there are certain risks of using social media by teens and tweens. The very zeitgeist declares that any photo or video presented publicly on the Internet may be used by hacktivist groups as well as any account may be violated, thus leading to data leakage (Madden et al., 2013). To understand the risks, it is critical to point out the behaviors and preferences of teens and tweens regarding social media in detail.
Tweens prefer to utilize social media to play interactive games, share photos, and watch videos. They are not considering, for example, hiding their life as teens do, as stated by Davis and James (2013). As it was already specified, many teens lead a secret life and share the content being sure that it is confident. Unlike tweens, they socialize more using blogging, messaging, and group chatting. Another characteristic point is that teens embrace social media everywhere and every time, be it home, school, shop, or hospital. It is, perhaps, the first generation that is highly dependent on social media (Madden et al., 2013).
A great variety of platforms provide almost unlimited access to favorite networks and chats. In other words, teens use social media with more awareness and involvement. There are also common characteristics of teens and tweens. For example, both of them are brand-savvy and influence family purchases. Not only brands but also events and tendencies occurring in the social impact them and make more sense to risks.
Focusing on potential risks, it is essential to pay attention to real-life examples. Homayoun (2017) mentions the case that happened recently. Harvard University rejected the applications of ten students who shared inappropriate content in the chat they thought was private. There were sexually offensive photos, child abuse, and so on. As suggested by the author, a great amount of time spent by teens and tweens on the Internet leads to “life-altering decisions” (Homayoun, 2017).
In the case of the mentioned group of teens, they had a false sense of confidence and did the actions that were thought to present to a limited number of people. However, information from hidden chats may be easily captured by the screenshot feature, thus leading to the revelation. The feedback loop is what motivates teens to act in such a reckless manner to increase their scale of popularity even within a small group. It seems that modern teens have biased values since they focus more on likes rather than real-life objectives.
Elaborating on the mentioned phenomenon regarding values, one may refer to risk anxiety and the social construction of childhood. According to Jackson and Scott (1999), childhood and associated sexuality present a great risk for teens and tweens, making them a priori vulnerable. In particular, with the growing attention to childhood abuse, many parents increase their concerns about children’s safety.
This fosters the latter to hide their lives as a result of the inherent intention for independence. More to the point, consistent with the above assumption, Homayoun (2017) suggests that the very biological basis contributes to such behavior: while social media and parents pressure them, an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex promotes offensive actions. As the area of the brain that controls decision-making, the prefrontal cortex makes teens and tweens focus on recognition and appraisal.
At this point, money and sex are the two key issues activating reward processing. It becomes difficult for teenagers to make a proper decision and act on their own instead of following the global trends in social media. This outlines the problem of teens and tweens unawareness of potential risks and the subsequent need to educate them about how to behave in social media.
Among other risks, one may note some dark sides concealed in social media. For example, a tween spending ten hours in social media is likely to miss the opportunity of making friends in real life due to poor communicating abilities or discover talking anxiety in adolescence. Cyberbullying, sexting, and imposter syndrome should also be mentioned as potential risks. The representative of Child Mind Institute in New York, NY, Ehmke (2017), claims that “girls are particularly at risk,” as they communicate to compare themselves with others and boost their self-esteem, sometimes unconsciously (para. 10). Social media allows teens to remain seemingly anonymous that makes them cruel, rude, and aggressive.
Taking into account that peer acceptance is rather critical to teens, they may select the perfect photo hours, “agonizing over which ones to post online” (Ehmke, 2017, para. 12). Stalking and ignoring is one more problem. While social media accessible through any device, teens, and tweens never stay alone yet hyperconnected with each other in terms of social media. Therefore, they feel like something always happening, and they need to respond rapidly. Specifically, in such conditions, teens may feel lonely because they may think to be ignored by others while waiting for comments or likes too long. This causes constant tension and anxiety.
Laws and Strategies to Secure the Use of Social Media
It is possible to mention one more social media that present potential risks to teens and tweens. Snapchat that allows creating one to ten seconds expirations of photos has a “discover” feature that shows highly rated expirations, some of which may have sexual content. The problem is that children have to scroll this content to see their friends’ posts. In response to the described case, a California court sued Snapchat for being sexy for minors.
Such a state of affairs poses the question of how laws and parents may secure minors from the negative impact. Considering federal laws, one may conclude that courts are generally held Internet-based companies from suits regarding the materials posted by third parties. In other words, by declaring that it is not responsible for what others post on their resource, social media absolves itself from the responsibility. However, it seems that such a passive attitude would be reconsidered by policymakers and law enforcement officials.
Along with the outside adverse impact, teens and tweens often act offensively with regards to other users. Liebelson (2015) states that a teenage boy from North Carolina might be recognized as a sex offender since he was convicted of keeping nude selfies of his girlfriend and himself. US legislation requires registering all sexual offenders. While more than 20 states adjusted their laws to address teen sexting, the problem remains critical in others where nude photos are characterized as child pornography.
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For example, Connecticut’s sexting law focuses on teens aged between 13 and 17 years old, who either transmitted or kept obscene or nude content and assigns harsh penalties (Liebelson, 2015). However, depending on a certain case, sexting may be punished by federal laws. In particular, the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003 criminalizes the production, distribution, possession, and receipt of obscene content with minors.
What should parents do to secure their children? First, they are to curtail their usage of social media and show a good example. It is possible to suggest that tweens and teens tend to copy behaviors of their parents, especially when it comes to checking messages and spending time in social networks (Madden et al., 2013). Second, experts recommend the following children in social media to understand their needs and expectations.
If there is no trust between a teen and parents, likely, parental spying would not benefit. Indeed, by establishing open relationships and expressing a sincere attitude to tweens and teens, parents may improve their authority and gain more confidence. Third, it is of great importance to explain to teens and tweens that every photo or video they post on their account or in a private chat may be stolen by the third parties or screenshots by other members, thus becoming observable for all. Parents are responsible for clarifying that everything users post or say in social media cannot be taken back, and there are penalties and lawsuit cases that reflect punishment for offensive conduct. In other words, parents should educate their children to be polite, tolerant, and attentive in an online world as well as in real life.
To conclude, it should be emphasized that both teens and tweens assign great importance to social media and use it to express themselves. While memes, fun videos, followers, and likes to attract tweens, Finstagram and hidden chats are more interesting to teens as a peer-oriented group. Examining behaviors of teens and tweens in social media helps to understand their motives and potential risks. It was discovered that law and parents may improve the situation by educating children and showing them that they should be aware of threats and vulnerabilities in social media. Along with the marvelous opportunities, there is a need to take great responsibility.
Davis, K., & James, C. (2013). Tweens’ conceptions of privacy online: Implications for educators. Learning, Media, and Technology, 38(1), 4-25.
Ehmke, R. (2017). How using social media affects teenagers. Web.
Homayoun, A. (2017). The secret social media lives of teenagers. The New York Times. Web.
Jackson, S., & Scott, S. (1999). Risk anxiety and the social construction of childhood. In D. Lupton (Ed.), Risk and sociocultural theory: New directions and perspectives (pp. 86-107). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Liebelson, D. (2015). Teens who take nude photos of themselves can still be treated as sex offenders. Huffington Post. Web.
Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Cortesi, S., Gasser, U., Duggan, M., Smith, A., & Beaton, M. (2013). Teens, social media, and privacy. Pew Research Center, 21(2), 2-86.
Shamberg, S. (2013). Tweens and Instagram: How to do it right. Huffington Post. Web.