Hardly. The official word is that millions of teens are still on Facebook, and the number of teens using the social network are holding steady.
Facebook is just one of many places where teens are online. As a sexual health professional you have spent time and resources on outreach and engaging your audience with status updates, photos and links. But teens aren’t just sticking with Facebook; they’re spreading their social media use across channels. So what’s a sexual health professional to do?
What’s Hot With Teens Right Now
Snapchat offers teens a simpler, more private social experience than Facebook. Users can send Snaps—privately shared photos and videos—which delete after a few seconds. The self-destruct timer leaves teens feeling less worried about leaving behind a digital footprint.
Instagram’s popular photo sharing service got a big boost when it let users share video. Instagram Direct is a new feature that lets users privately share photos and videos with each other. It’s a clear response to Snapchat’s growing popularity, but unlike Snapchat’s self-destruct timer, messages shared on Instagram Direct have to be manually deleted.
Twitter launched Vine in 2013, and it shares its parent’s penchant for keeping things brief. Instead of 140 characters for a Tweet, Vine videos must be six seconds or less. Six seconds doesn’t seem like much, but it forces you to be concise and creative. There’s no end to the laughs and visual creativity on Vine.
Tumblr has grown into one of the largest blogging platforms, and it’s very popular with teens and young adults. It’s a treasure trove of photos, memes and other viral content. Users can reblog content and quickly add it to their own blog. You can customize almost everything about a blog’s theme, which makes Tumblr a great place for self-expression. And it offers anonymity—a huge draw for teens.
WhatsApp, Kik, Facebook Messenger and other messenger apps let teens communicate one on one or with a group of friends. Messenger apps let you share things like photos, videos, GIFs and stickers—most of what Facebook offers, but with more privacy. This is texting for the smartphone generation.
Sexual Health Professionals Must Adapt
Don’t panic about reports that teens are leaving Facebook. But don’t put all of your eggs in the Facebook basket. This is an opportunity to embrace change, adapt what you’ve done successfully on Facebook and diversify the platforms you use to engage teens. If you haven’t already, check out Snapchat, Vine and other apps that teens use to avoid mom and dad on Facebook. Follow some of your favorite sexual health organizations and brands, like Sex, Etc., and see how they’ve adapted.
I’ll be hosting Answer’s webinar on how to use smartphone apps like Snapchat, Vine and Tumblr to teach sexuality education. And I’ll be sharing best practices and examples of great work being done in the sexual health field. Whether you’re a school-based educator, community-based educator, clinician or other sexual health professional, you’ll walk away feeling more comfortable with new technology.
Register online and learn how you can use mobile apps to deepen teen engagement and make sexuality education more relevant and compelling to them.
—Alex Medina, Coordinator of Web Content and Social Networking