How A 15-Year Old Uses Social Media

I have gotten into a habit of sitting in front of the television, laptop on my knee, sharing my opinions on television programmes through the medium of social media then reading other people's opinions, agreeing or disagreeing as everything happens. It's a sort of online kangaroo court.

However, Cyberbully (Channel 4, Thursday 15th January) was different. I never took my eyes off the screen. Based on real-life cases and told in real time, I was transfixed.  Such an ingenious way to tell a story and highlight the way in which people use and abuse the privilege of online media. It left me with a lot to think about, especially as it was based around children of a similar age to my youngest. 

How a 15 year old uses social media
Prior to watching Cyberbully, I read Tanya's post about how her teens view social media. It's a honest and surprising post to read, mainly because of the way in which our digital world has developed I thought the next generation would have been more invested in certain aspects of it at least - even more so when they are the children of bloggers.  

Now, I've always been fairly relaxed about the way in which my own children have access to online media as I mentioned in this post - 'Parenting 101' - about four years ago.  There's a trust that has been built up where they know that I know how to check their online activity at any point, but we have honest and open relationships so there's very little need.  I asked my own 15 year old about his use of social media, thinking about the accounts noted in Cyberbully and then expanded on the conversation. Here are his answers:

Jake: I use Facebook a lot to see what people are up to. I contact my friends on there using Messenger and I ring them for free through Messenger too.  I play some games - mainly Texas Poker - and tell people what I got in 'packs' on Fifa15 by taking a picture and uploading it with a status.
Me: How often do you update your status?
Jake: I don't really. Not a lot, anyway. Lots of friends tag me in statuses or photos.

Jake: I've got an account but I don't really use it. I went on Twitter the other day to see what cards people have got in packs from Fifa15.
Me: Do you know how to use the search facility on Twitter?
Jake: Nope.

Google Plus
Jake: Never heard of it!
Me: [falls over]
Jake: Is that like where you can ask Google a question and find an answer?
Me:  No, that's Google search.
Jake: Oh. 

Jake:  [confused face] Is that like a dating site?
Me: No, that's Tinder!
*we both laugh*
Jake: I've heard of it but I don't know what it is.

Jake: I use Snapchat a lot to contact people.  It's only my friends though because you have to add people to your contact list. This is the one where pictures disappear after a set amount of seconds. 

Jake: No account, never used it. A few of my friends have it though and they send their pictures to Facebook.

Jake: I use it all the time. I'm always watching Fifa videos and like watching people who have recorded themselves playing or when they open their player packs.  I search for funny videos or fail compilations (they are hilarious) or stunts that people have done on mopeds or skateboards.  I like finding Parkour videos too.
Me: Have you heard of Alfie Deyes or Joe Suggs or Zoella?
Jake: No.  Who are they?
Me: It doesn't matter. What about music videos? Do you listen to music on YouTube?
Jake: Yes, I have it on in the background sometimes.

Jake: I've got an account but I don't use it often - just every now and again for talking to friends. 

Jake: Never used it.

Jake: Never heard of it.

Jake: Never used it but I know what it is.
*this is where we had a bit of a disagreement about how long a Vine video is. I said six seconds, he said seven seconds so we looked it up.  It's actually 6.5 seconds*

Jake: Never used it.

Me: What other social media apps do you use that I might not have mentioned?
Jake: [checks phone]

Jake: It's a live  streaming website where you can watch anyone in the world playing an online game on their XBox, Playstation or PC. It's not hacking, they have to 'broadcast' their game through the website. You can only watch on the phone app though. 

Jake: Me and my friends sometimes upload raps we've made up and we listen to and comment on other people's original music or raps that they've uploaded.

I think that's a fairly even mix of social media use and nothing that makes alarm bells ring. He uses less than I thought he did but he does see his friends a lot outside of the house so there's little need for them to be online all the time.  He doesn't seem to use social media to 'brag' or to share every single aspect of his life because he's already engaging face-to-face with the people who he interacts with.

Reading the responses from Tanya's teens and the conclusion that there is a generation of online users (the first tranche?) that over-share or are over-engaged or that are super-invested in their digital world seems more apparent when I talk to my own teenager about it. My generation has been part of the development of easy access to this amazing world where you can contact anyone at any time whereas the next generation are growing up in a world where that's always been the case. So is that the reason for their lack of enthusiasm about it?

Both the television thriller, Cyberbully, and this conversation with Jake has let me with lots to mull over.  What about you?

Edited to add: there's some amazing comments on here already but there's also some on my Facebook page. Click here or here to read them.  You can even talk to me on Twitter about this too - I'm @nickieohara