Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Keeping up with teens' social media trends

4/27/2020 by Dr. Nusheen Ameenuddin


During the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is turning even more to social media to stay connected with friends, family and coworkers. That's especially true for teens. Do you know where they're "hanging out"?

Teens, since time began, have wanted to be where their friends are. Nothing's changed there. While Facebook used to be the place to be, new platforms like TikTok along with older ones like Snapchat and Tumblr, are claiming their attention. Remember, teens typically don't just have one platform, but a portfolio of go-to- social media. If you're not familiar with what your teen is using, check these out:

  • TikTok. All the rage, this platform features 30-second videos created by users. They run the gamut from showing off dance moves to making art to adorable pets to how-tos for just about anything. School teachers and pediatricians are jumping onto TikTok to get out the message about a lesson, vaccinations or social distancing. 
  • Snapchat. It's all about photos, adding artwork and playing games. Originally, the posts only lasted for a set amount of time, now they can be saved and shared. Users can create "streaks," almost like the old-fashioned chain letter, but no one wants to break the streak, which makes it especially hard for parents trying for a social media holiday. 
  • Tumblr. Through user-created blogs on any topic under the sun, from silly jokes to poems, users connect with others who share their interests. If teens aren't able to find a community in real life, Tumblr is one place they can find one online. 
  • Instagram. While this photo-focused app has been around a while, it's still popular. But what you see on your teen's public Instagram posts might not be all they're sharing. They may have created a "finsta", or "fake Insta", a private Instagram account that's only open to a select group of friends outside the view of parents. 

Social media is a tool that's neither good nor bad. But it's very powerful. It can encourage social behavior, activism, finding a cause that means something to your child, or connecting with a community that shares their interests, which can be a huge plus for kids who feel marginalized in any way. Social media also can lead to cyberbullying, sexting, revenge porn, and more, that can ruin their reputation now and into their professional adult life. 

It's recommended that pediatricians talk about internet and social media use at every well-child visit, starting when kids reach middle school. 

  • Message for parents: If you allow your child to have social media, even if it's just text or email, you should have your child's user names and passwords for devices, sites and apps. This can be negotiated as kids near 18. 
  • Message for teens: Everything you put online, even if you think it's private, becomes public. If you wouldn't put it on a bulletin board at school, don't put it on social media. One of the reasons your parents should be involved, is so that if anything you've received bothers you or is inappropriate, you can take it to them. They can take a screenshot and alert the authorities, if necessary. 
  • Message for both: Cell phones and screens shouldn't be in your room. Putting it in another room, especially when you're ready for bed, creates separation and reduces the pressure to respond. And it lets you get the sleep you need. 

Screenagers is a documentary that focuses on teens’ use of social media. Currently, it’s only available for community showings, in order to stimulate discussion. Here’s where you can find information for hosting a showing.       

Talk with your kids about social media use and stay engaged with them about it. It's your role as a parent to encourage what's good about these platforms and protect your teen from what's bad. If you'd like your pediatrician to start the discussion, just ask.    

Dr. Nusheen Ameenuddin is a pediatrician with Primary Care in Rochester/Kasson's Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM). She has a strong interest in child advocacy and media effects on children. She serves as chair of the national American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Communications and Media and is on the board of the Minnesota chapter of the AAP. She also holds master's degrees in Public Health and Public Administration and serves as director of the Pediatric Resident Continuity Clinic.