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
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).
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.
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:
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.