Twitter is a social networking website through which users share updates in 140 characters or less. Users can also share polls, images, and location data. Each update (or “Tweet”) can be easily re-shared by a user’s followers (or “Re-tweeted). Content on Twitter is extremely viral (meaning that it can be re-shared to a great number of people very quickly). Because Tweets are so short, many users Tweet several times a day, or even constantly.
What’s the Big Deal?
Twitter is a great way to interact with celebrities on the internet. Most public figures have at least one official Twitter account from which they themselves Tweet. Often, they interact with fans via Twitter. Your teen might follow several of these celebrities in order to feel more close with them.
Other teens enjoy feeling like a part of a larger community. Twitter can often feel like a huge conversation; Retweets and shares from all over the internet coming together in one streamlined place. The appeal of participating in such a large dialog can be attractive to teens looking to be part of “something more.”
Is my Teen Safe?
Like any social networking platform, Twitter is what the user makes of it. Plenty of teens are able to safely and appropriately use Twitter. One key to this is never sharing personal information on the internet. Ensure that your teen knows not to post their full name, location, birth date, or other private identifying information to a public-facing account.
As the many celebrity scandals instigated by Tweets have proven, small statements can have big impacts. Make sure your teen has an understanding of what is and is not hurtful to themselves or others when posted on the internet. One great way to do this would be to discuss some famous cases of Twitter misuse with your teen. Chat about the latest Kardashian intrigue, or even political scandal, and how these problems could have been avoided.
Twitter only has two privacy settings: public or protected. A public account is available, in its entirety, to the world at large. A protected account allows users to approve followers, and only allows a user’s content to be visible to those followers. Followers may not Retweet content posted by a protected account.
You may toggle an account from public to protected (or back) at any time. From the web interface, log in to your Twitter account. Go to “Security and Privacy Settings”. Check the box next to “Tweet Privacy” that reads “Protect my Tweets.” Click “Save”.
To Tweet or Not To Tweet?
Since Tweets are so viral, your teen will have to put extra consideration into the content they place online. The Library of Congress archives Tweets; so every nugget of text that goes on Twitter is (in fact) part of a permanent collection of data. Have your teen visit and re-visit your household’s social networking policy with each post. Through judgment and strong communication skills, your teen can get the hang of using Twitter as a powerful social networking tool while minimizing risk.