5 Social Networking Rules Teens Shouldn’t Bother to Break

Something I thought might be useful for my readers; a basic list of rules to keep in mind as a teen using a social networking site. Click here.

I know rules suck, and are generally meant to be broken. But there are only 5 on the list and they’re things I feel are useful for teens. One of the most important rules on this list is to live. That means, stay true to yourself and don’t be sucked into a trend or fad just because you see your friends doing it on their Facebook pages.

😉

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Teen Girl Hides Facebook Date in Closet. For 8 Days.

A 13 year-old Detroit girl met a boy on Facebook and decided it would be a good idea to hide him in her closet. For 8 days. The boy, 19 years-old, was finally discovered by the girl’s mother at least a week after he first went into “hiding.”

There are so many issues with this particular circumstance that I don’t even know where to begin. Since very few details were released about this alarm-raising situation, I can only assume and comment so much. But I can’t help but to wonder how a barely-teen girl managed to get away with this. For at least a week.

The only other detail given was that the young girl admitted to having sex with the 19 year-old boy. Upon discovery the mother kept the boy in the house until police arrived, and he is being held on sexual misconduct charges. You see, the age of consent in the state of Michigan is 16. And three years is a long time to wait when you’re barely old enough to start high school. So you might as well just sit tight.

Girls, I know what you’re thinking. 19 years old doesn’t seem that bad, and meeting someone on Facebook is just like meeting someone at a high school football game. Only it’s not. Online social networks are great for keeping tabs on friends, looking at pictures of cute boys and virtually stalking them by constantly checking their status updates. They are not great, however, for finding people to meet in real life. Not when you’re only 13.

And moms, I know what you’re thinking. Facebook is a dangerous place for your teenage daughter to socialize, and it can lead to adverse behavior like sneaking boys into the house and hiding them in the closet. Well, that’s true, if your daughter is inclined to do these kinds of things. And that is a very scary thought.

There’s no real way to provide a resolution for the problem, because each situation is different. There’s no blanket answer on how to monitor or control teens’ actions on social networks such as Facebook. There’s also no real way of conveying the true dangers of meeting strangers in real life, based on initial contact that was made online.

All I can really say is pursuing a halfway decent relationship with your teen daughter is a good place to start. Parents are no longer naive to the ways of the online networking world, and ensuring that your teen daughter isn’t naive either is a necessity in today’s world. However you decide to handle these lessons from a parenting perspective is up to you as a parent, but teaching teens the etiquette of online socializing is a valuable lesson that will carry over into the workplace and beyond.

And feel free to check the kids’ closets every now and again. They’re perfect hiding places, you know.

image credit: xJenniferx

Is Facebook Feeling the Burden of Establishing Its Platform?

fbplatformSome upcoming changes on Facebook have raised a few concerns from developers, but users will probably give a sigh of relief. Not only is Facebook moving towards a more dictator-like policy with developer apps, but the company is also placing more limitations on application alerts.

The changes themselves will restrict applications’ ability to post in Facebook users’ notifications, which appear in the bottom left corner of your Facebook profile. Additionally, Facebook is reportedly tired of constantly updating its application policies and regulations, hence the move to a more subjective form of dealing with applications.

For developers, this means that they have less access to users. Several developers find that notifications are great ways to bring traffic back to their application, which is probably because notifications used to be restricted to Facebook alerts only, and they contain all of the important activity updates that pertain directly to you.

It’s understandable why users would be relieved with the updated terms, yet it’s easy to see why developers are worried about the ever-changing rules surrounding application interaction options within Facebook’s network. Changes on Facebook’s end typically means that developers are being further limited in some way, presenting new challenges at every turn of their Facebook-specific campaign.

What I found particularly interesting about these changes is the fact that Facebook is ultimately asking developers to seek other ways in which to interact with their users. Facebook’s decision to take a more subjective approach to developer apps coupled with the latest limitations for app alerts, I’m wondering if Facebook is starting to feel the burden of establishing a major platform standard.

As a company with a first mover advantage for socially integrated platforms, Facebook has been key in establishing standards for how similar platforms will work across the board. It’s platform has introduced a great deal of opportunity for the company as well as third party developers and marketers, as applications presented a new way in which to connect with users.

While the hope is that the recent Facebok changes will encourage developers to focus on quality interactions with users instead of the quantity of interactions, the fact remains that Facebook’s decisions ultimately have an effect on the monetization potential behind applications. This will trickle right back up to Facebook, as its ability to monetize its platform will be somewhat effected by this in the end. But the dedication to the users’ experience is a necessity for Facebook, and will likely help platform standards in the end.

Time will tell whether or not Facebook is handling its relationships with developers in the most ideal sense. Even as testing has gone on around a performance-based regulatory system surrounding an app’s ability to potentially spam users, spam always seems to sneak through anyway. Regardless of how Facebook feels about being a leader in the market, it will have to deal with its position one way or another. The ongoing tit-for-tat dance between spammier apps and Facebook won’t go away anytime soon.

Teens, The Internet, and the First Amendment

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Organizations don’t like it when you complain about them. Especially when you do so in a public manner–online. The matter of First Amendment rights in the online realm has been a hot topic for debate for several years now, and things aren’t cooling off.

As Helen A.S. Popkin mentions, the debate may actually be heating up. High schoolers and college-age students have a tendency to say their school sucks. It’s what they’re supposed to do. In retrospect we eventually learn to cherish the days of absent responsibility and channel the anger that thrusts us into independent thought. This even appears to be particularly popular in the U.S. But for some reason the Internet has brought about a plethora of new issues with which to discuss one’s rights to the First Amendment.

Call it cyber-bullying or chalk it up to adolescent defamation. The Internet has an odd impermanence about its ability to archive and retrieve data due to its sheer size, but putting your hatred for a school or a faculty member out into the world [wide web] can easily come back to haunt you.

We can talk about the First Amendment until we run out of oxygen to breath, but I’d rather leave that up to the courts. The fact remains that saying bad things about people and organizations can hurt their feelings and damage their pride. You can expect them to retaliate. In many cases, they retaliate with disciplinary actions, long-standing negative affects on their academic records, and lawsuits.

How ironic that high school and college students get to learn, first hand, about the ultimate case of payback when it comes to the expression of their First Amendment rights. Seeing the growing pains of self-expression play out on the Internet merely reminds me of the social strains brought about by new technology, its assimilation, and its eventual acceptance. This is all particularly poignant as it deals with new forms of communication, complete with widespread access to these new forms of communication, and the cultural implications that lie therein.

In the end, however, I think it’s important to remember that there’s nothing really new under the sun. Everything we’re dealing with has a core issue that has little to do with the technology itself but of human’s ability to coexist within a healthy social structure. There’s no reason for parents, faculty, attorneys or judges to scratch their heads at teenage social networking nonsense. Even in its early years, my mother recognized the fact that the Internet was yet another way for her daughter to communicate with the world, and that included the world’s individuals. Therefore, the same principles apply, regardless of one’s offline or online status.

It will still be a challenge, but any attempt to get this message through to teens and young adults will be gratuitous in the end.

White Flight. The Economy of Facebook and MySpace.

Facebook and MySpace have been at war for years now, with the two major social networks vying for world domination, claiming country by country, demographic by demographic. A recent speech titled “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online” by Danah Boyd of the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society begs the question, why does there seem to be a race and class divide when it comes to Facebook and MySpace?

Is Facebook really more elite, with MySpace having become the “ghetto” of online social networking? It’s an interesting question that forces us to look at social networks in a new light. Chris Matyszczyk of CNET likens the shift from MySpace to Facebook to the white flight we see all too often when a once-established neighborhood becomes a little too diverse for its white residents.

An interesting perspective, and one that’s readily able to relate to in American culture. It’s a major part of our history and has been so even before the days of the modern suburbs. But it also speaks to a long history of institutionalized classism as well as racism, which often go hand in hand. Is that really the level of analysis we’re ready to apply to online social networking? If that’s the case, then there are some serious questions we need to be directing to the founders, executives and investors of both MySpace and Facebook.

But first let’s look at the Utopian side of things. Both Facebook and MySpace are online social networks, meaning that they’re virtual pieces of property and can be accessed by anyone that has an Internet connection. Utopia, right? Not really. There was already the long-standing matter of Internet access as it applies to the race/class divide. If you’re a racial minority and economically deterred, then Internet access is a novelty. You are relegated to public access Internet points and your mobile device, which may or may not be a smart phone capable of high functions for social networking.

While the technology divide is narrowing, it becomes less and less of an issue for the purposes of this particular case, but it cannot be entirely ignored, especially as it was still a factor when both MySpace and Facebook were launched and began to gain major traction.

But another factor I find noteworthy is the approach employed by each social network in question; MySpace began as an online tool for getting musicians set up with their own website, while Facebook began as an exclusive network for Harvard students. MySpace came about when the only other major option for widespread social networking was Friendster, which also targeted the college-age demographic. The tactic used for MySpace included posting photos of scantily clad users and enticing new sign ups. Facebook required a confirmed .edu email address just to let you in the front door.

The two strategies towards growth, new user acquisition and existing user retention are vastly different and inherently attract different crowds. So is this race/class divide self-selecting or in fact more institutional? If the trend is self-selecting then we can attribute much of the world’s view on these social networks to be indicative of current mentality for those that use the networks. We can also expect to see some changes with both MySpace and Facebook. Perhaps Facebook will too become a dated neighborhood, run down by the “wrong crowd” and witness another white flight to the next hot spot. And that hot spot would likely be a revived and gentrified MySpace, full of nostalgia and gritty determination to be hip.

We’d also be able to apply these theories to other social networks, and I don’t think online social networking has been around long enough to draw any solid conclusions in that regard. This is mainly because very different strategies are applied to each social network that is launched, and many of the social networks we’ve seen in the past decade have been rather niche. From LinkedIn to BlackPlanet, you can expect a different crowd no matter where you go. There will almost always be a different crowd with a different objective. Fortunately these are all factors that Boyd studies in her ongoing work and research in social media.

What’s disappointing is the fact that these strategies can ultimately lead to an overwhelming sense of distinction based on race and class, especially when you think of the business concerns revolving around the spending power of the actual demographics on MySpace and Facebook versus the widespread perception that could either deter or encourage the stimulation of an economy around each network. From developer apps to advertising campaigns, the affect that race and class distinctions have on any business is real.

What Comes After Facebook?

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I came across a Facebook look-alike the other day and it reminded me of that era of constant clone creation, where every other site that was submitted for review seemed to be a carbon copy of MySpace, Facebook or Twitter. We don’t see such clones very often anymore, namely because there’s little purpose in creating a standalone destination site. It’s cheaper, faster and more efficient to build an application that runs on the platform of a larger, already established social network, such as Facebook.

In fact, Facebook has really set the standards for the integrated social network platform, as it enables developers to leverage users’ social graphs for gaining new users, creating interactive applications, and building brand recognition. You know, the true nature of viral online activity within the realm of absolute social networking.

So will we ever see a return to standalone social networking destination sites? The application route via integrated platforms has already proven itself as a business model. We all held our breath to see how developers, users and investors would respond to Facebook’s platform, and once applications started to receive funding and become acquisition targets, we had our proof of concept. From then on, we’ve seen the steady growth of other platforms created for advertising and monetizing applications within these integrated platforms, some of which are cross-network or network-agnostic. The current outcropping of virtual goods monetization only spurs the revenue-generating potential of integrated social network platforms, with Facebook still at the center of it all.
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An Ex-Teen Reconsiders The Privacy Status Option

I’ve personally noticed in the past week that kids have more options these days for social networking, and every once in a while it gets scary. I know that this isn’t entirely new, but through a few personal experiences, it’s been drawn to my attention in more prominent manner as of late. My little brother is a pro at taking pictures of himself using his camera phone, and a few other pre-teens I know have taken to online dating. Dating?

Now, when I was a teenager, social networking made up a good portion of my time, especially as it had begun to really pick up steam just as I was getting ready to trek off to college. Back then we didn’t really have private profile status options, or niche networks to choose what type of information went where. And as a teenager, I was fully aware that “putting myself out there” was somewhat risky business, but I still wasn’t fully cognizant of what all that meant.

When it came down to it, I was probably sharing more information than I needed to. Teens are far more aware these days, but parents still have a growing concern over the amount of information that their kids are placing on the web, even if it’s in the for of an image, and not always a direct phrase or set of data that would be immediately recognized as personally identifiable data.

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So are me and my friends just getting older and wiser, and have kids these days learned from our mistakes? Then again, it could just be the “phase” excuse, where teens do things that the rest of us don’t understand, and we call it a phase, hoping they’ll grow out of it. Just like we used to shop at Spencers and PacSun, we would now rather head over to Macy’s and Brooks Brothers. But will things like additional status options for social networks solve the problem?

There are a few additional issues to look at as well, one of which is the fact that giving teens the options doesn’t mean they’ll take them. In response to such attitudes, which could lead to a bit of “mommy and daddy know best” reactions, there has been a good amount of regulation in conjunction with th social networking providers themselves to protect the youngsters.

How far will that go, especially as social networking now extends across devices, in multiple manifestations, such as mobile hand-helds and video games? While I regret to see such a strong push for increased regulation (like permission slips), I am interested to see how the powers that be will further respond to the rapid ways in which social networking options make their way into every corner of our lives.