What I learned talking to 13 year olds about social media

As I stood up to speak to a room of twenty, 13 years olds, it dawned on me that this might be a bad idea. What could I tell them about social media that they don’t already know? After all, they are the ‘social natives’ who have grown up with social – its second nature.

Thankfully, we had a great conversation.

Here’s what I learned.

They naturally segment their social platforms.

As a broad generalisation…Facebook is a platform to interact with older siblings or parents. Meanwhile, What’s App and Snapchat is their umbilical cord to their mates. Twitter and Instagram help them connect and share with the world. Understandably Linkedin was totally irrelevant!

Privacy concerns don’t keep them up at night.

The generation in power now will define the standards and safeguards around data and privacy that these children will inherit. We need to get this right because they don’t see the boundary between privacy and transparency. It’s a sort of blur. They have no concept of the risks around sharing their lives online. Their cohort is always on, in the moment, sharing and engaging in the minutia of everyday life.

Just like us, they struggle with platform overload.

Some things never change. The number one excuse I hear from CEOs who are inactive on social is that they don’t have time. Likewise, these teenagers complained they don’t have time to stay active across all their social profiles. “I set up a Google Plus account and got bored with it”, said one. Sounds familiar!

Access to technology divides them.

There was a divide between the haves and the have-nots when it comes to smartphones. Those with smartphones seemed manically busy creating and sharing video and images on visual platforms like Instagram. Those without a smartphone didn’t. Maybe their parents were concerned about the wider issues of giving their child such access to the web?

Social media provokes moral questions.

One child asked “Will social become a force for good?” In the session we talked about the Arab Spring and the role of social in empowering peaceful protest. They clearly connected with this. We also looked at the dark side of social in the hands of terrorists like ISIS. So they were acutely aware of moral context of social media.

On standby for the internet-of-things.

To my surprise, some of them articulated the concept beautifully. To them it seems like a simple and expected idea. We are all connected to each other in real-time via social. Why not extend this connectivity to devices? Trying to predict what life will be like for them when they grow up seems impossible but this video might come close.

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