Social Media Amongst Middle Schoolers

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Let me start by addressing the fact that the use of social media amongst children in middle school is a very controversial topic. It has the potential to distract children at school, provide increased opportunities for kids to bully one other, and also raises privacy questions for young children. Despite this, the reality is that children in this age group, maybe not all but at least some, are regularly using social media platforms. It is not my intention with this blog post to argue whether or not children should be allowed to have social media accounts, but rather to look at the ones who’s parents allow them to and discuss: (1) what platforms they are on and (2) how they tend to behave on those platforms.

As the older sister of an eleven year old and a ten year old, I have always been fascinated not only by how the platforms they use to connect with their friends differ from the ones I choose to use, but also by how their behavior compares to mine on the ones we both use.

Part One: The Unique Platforms of Middle Schoolers 

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The first time I noticed my siblings using a social media platform I had yet to hear of was Musical.ly (this was also the first time I ever truly felt old). Musical.ly officially describes itself as a video social network– “the world’s largest creative platform. The platform makes it super easy for everyone to make awesome videos and share with friends or to the world”.

Luckily, my brother gave me the less official description his friends use: an app that lets you create videos of yourself lip syncing and or dancing and post them to share with people in your class. My initial reaction was somewhat disbelief that they all really took this seriously, but once he allowed me to scroll through his account, it became alarmingly obvious that this was the main way he stayed connected with his friends while he was not at school. His reaction to my response was also disbelief that I refused to create my own musical.ly account to create videos with him.

 

The next platform I was also made aware of is VSCO; a community for expression, or as my sister described it to me “the new Instagram for young people” (thanks a lot Kerry).

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From my understanding, VSCO operates somewhat similar to Instagram but users tend to add a higher volume of photographs to their page, not simply one post per event or day. In my sister’s defense, apparently this platform is used by some people within my own age group as well, I am just a late mover when it comes to creating new social media accounts.

Part Two: The Unique Behavior of Middle Schoolers on Platforms We Use 

The only platform that me and my younger siblings are all users on is Snapchat. The news that there was at least one platform we all commonly used came as a relief to me. However, it quickly became obvious once we added each other that the way they use it to communicate with their friends is a lot different than the way I use it to communicate with mine.

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My friends and I use Snapchat to send each others funny pictures with filters, relay parts of our daily lives, and if we’re being honest to send the ugliest pictures of ourselves as humanly possible. For my younger siblings, they use Snapchat for EVERYTHING. My mom was the first to inform me that my sister not only never calls her friends on the house phone, she refuses to even message them off her Apple ID on her Ipad. I initially was very confused by how they even communicated then, until my sister informed me that even when she wants to invite her friends over the house, she simply direct messages them on Snapchat. I personally still don’t understand the logic behind this but Kerry informed me that I am “too old to understand”. This difference in behavior was really driven home for me this year when I thought my sister had forgotten to wish me a happy birthday. That was until I logged onto Snapchat and saw her my story of the image below:

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Conclusion:

 Watching my younger siblings social media use has allowed me to gain insight into the tendencies of a whole other generation; opening up another world of platforms and exposing me to different behavior on the platforms I too use. This experience has been both humorous and enjoyable, despite them constantly teasing me about how I use social media at my age. The important take away from my conversations with them is that every generation has their own set of rules dictating their social media behavior and that the “norm” for those my age is not the same as it is for them, or even for my parents. This is a lesson I try to always keep in mind when my mother posts horrible childhood pictures of me on my wall or my grandma insists on posting pictures of glitter as her Facebook status.

 

6 comments

  1. Great post! I honestly think it’s comical how far we’ve gone to where reading about this topic is honestly like research. It’s like middle schoolers are different humans and it’ll be interesting to see how their brain development may be impacted by the presence of social media moving forward. But as Prof Kane said, it’s what the older generation says about the younger generation all the time. I found your point on snapchat messaging very interesting as well. I wonder if kids avoid iMessaging in case their parents can read their messages whereas snap messages disappear. If this is the case, I wouldn’t think it would be to hide something bad, but rather just a desire for a secure private conversation. Tell your bro congrats on the dab video from your random classmate!

  2. Great post! I was super excited to read this article after you mentioned it in class & you definitely didn’t disappoint (though the highlight was definitely your brother’s video–he’s awesome!) I do find it very interesting that the older generations (I guess we’re included in that now?) are always so thrown by the new social medias/technologies young kids get into, but like Ben said, it almost does feel like research to talk about how kids are interacting. I’m also super intrigued by the idea of music.ly–it doesn’t really seem like a communicative platform, yet it’s one of the most prevalent in that age group. The rest make sense to me–as I said in class, I see kids communicating the same things as we did, just on different platforms–but music.ly feels completely new.

    Does anyone else have any thoughts on why music.ly is so popular? Does it remind you of any other platforms we/older generations used?

  3. First off, your brother is truly dabonair. Second off, such a relevant and amusing topic to consider with respect to changing social media behavior. Analyzing usage trends for younger demographics continues to be critical for all players in the digital space because not only does it reveal insights into the up-and-coming user base, but also, these younger users often dictate and inspire new features/applications for a platform. I found it fascinating to read that your sister converses with and invites her friends over via Snapchat. It creates a dynamic in which there can be no paper trail while (intentionally or not) making it more difficult for parents such as ProfKane to monitor their kid’s digital activity.

  4. I was looking for this blog post after you mentioned it in class last week – so cute! I’ve found the same behavior with my little cousins and the kids I nanny. I think it can take away some of the concern over children’s use of social media to see that they don’t take it nearly as seriously as we do. Whereas I might scroll through ten photos before editing and posting an Instagram, these middle schoolers like your brother are simply posting funny videos of them dancing and lip-syncing for pure entertainment. Without being naive to the negative repercussions of social media use, it seems somewhat harmless in the way presented in this article, and I think it was a fresh reminder that kids don’t take things nearly as seriously as we do. Really good, fun post to read!

  5. What do you think it is about lip syncing in particular that has so many millions of teenagers hooked on Music.ly?

    It seems like, to Music.ly users, that these 15-second-snippets are a deeper level of communication, one that is more creative and expressive.
    Music.ly looked to teenagers to be the most creative and expressive generation as they always are. Music.ly must have amazing communication with their end users who don’t seem to be ready to leave any time soon.

  6. Nice post. If you haven’t seen this article that came out about a year ago, it’s worth a read. Very similar perspective as yours on middleschool snapchat use.

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/benrosen/how-to-snapchat-like-the-teens?utm_term=.rpn2rNxnE#.ehRJO3Rwm

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