Young People and Social Media – Leave Those Kids Alone!


I’ve been thinking a lot about young people this month. I enjoyed fellow Lancaster Guardian columnist, Blaise Tapp’s post about young people getting a hard time and employers not wanting to employ them. Then last week I was working with Young Lancashire to design training for youth workers, to support young people around their on-line reputation management.

As an ex-youth worker and a mum of a teen, I do worry about the UK’s attitude towards our young people. I am however aware of one group that are very keen to be seen everywhere that young people hang out – and that’s marketers.

Anyone that has seen the film The Social Network will be aware that Mark Zuckerberg designed Facebook for university students to communicate with each other. Now, because of embarrassing parents and advertisers moving onto Facebook en-masse, no self respecting young person spends much time on there. Instagram became popular with young people so, lo and behold, businesses wised up to this lovely site, and Facebook bought Instagram! In need of a place to call their own, where they can talk to their mates without parental interference, young people started using Snapchat, a fun, fast and relatively new site for use on mobile devices, where you essentially send selfies and use paint apps to add captions.

Snapchat has experienced considerable growth, its use reached 5.5 billion minutes last year and it‘s just been announced that they have raised nearly $ 500 million in investment. So this year it’s not surprising that the marketing world has set its sights on Snapchat. But what is bonkers is that last week David Cameron said that he may close it down as it poses a security risk, because our security services can’t hack it! This is a particularly interesting announcement as less than a year ago the Turkish Prime Minister tried, and failed, to close down twitter.

As I have written many times before, as adults it is our job to provide good guidance, be good role models, and enable young people to understand the long term implications of the things they post on-line. But as the Youth Service has been stripped to its bare bones in recent years, there are very few safe, alcohol free, places for young people to hang out any more. Letting them have somewhere to chat to each other in the comfort of their own homes, that doesn’t run up our phone bills, is a good thing isn’t it?

Personally I would love to see a safe site developed that was just for under 21′s, with no marketers allowed! Any takers?

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