What is social networking?
And why do our children spend so much time doing it?
Every journey has a starting point, and in our journey as Digital Parents towards understanding our children’s digital worlds it makes sense to start with social networking.
Whenever the internet is discussed, social networking is almost always part of the conversation. In fact, by the time you finish reading this paragraph over 100,000 posts will have taken place on Facebook and over 1 million tweets will have been sent worldwide.
So what is social networking, and what do Digital Parents need to know?
The 60 second Digital Parents’ guide:
Social media allows users to share messages, images and videos, and play games with other people online.
Some of the most popular social networking services are:
- Facebook and Messenger
Users can decide how much of the information they share can be seen by other users; using privacy settings they can opt for anything from between just their chosen friends, to anybody in the world.
As Digital Parents, we can help to guide our children through the social digital world, helping them to enjoy the benefits and avoid the dangers .
Social networking; the facts:
In plain terms, social networking allows people to talk to each other, send and receive pictures and videos, exchange ideas, find out about each other’s likes and dislikes, and much more. All of this can be done using laptops, smartphones and tablets.
Before we look at some of facts and figures about the way that children and young people are using the internet:
- In Qatar, 85% of children aged 9-18 are using the internet; 50% of them are using their smartphones to do so.
- On average, the age at which children in Qatar receive their first internet-enabled device is 8 years old.
- The average amount of time people in Qatar spend using the internet each day in Qatar is 3 hours. This rises to 4 hours among ages 18-24 years and is increasing with each generation.
Now that we know some of the statistics about internet use in Qatar, let’s look at some of the main social networking services that every Digital Parent should be familiar with. The first thing we should note is that Qatar is different from most other countries in the world, and even in the Middle East.
Globally, Facebook dominates the world of social networking, whereas Qataris are much more likely to use Instagram, Whatsapp and, among young people, Snapchat. People of other nationalities who live in Qatar are more likely to use Facebook as one of their main social networking tool.
Originally a photo-sharing app, Instagram has evolved into one of the most popular social networking communities and is particularly popular in Qatar, with more users than any other country in the Middle East.
Instagram allows users to share photographs and video either publically or with chosen friends only. Like many social networking sites, Instagram can tell users where and when a photograph was taken. This feature is something that Digital Parents should be particularly aware of when helping their children to navigate the digital world safely.
One of the fastest growing social networking tools in Qatar is WhatsApp. According to a recent survey by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, it is the most used social network among Qatari adults. It allows users to send and receive text messages, share photographs and documents and make telephones call.
WhatsApp is private and allows users to set up small or large groups who can all take part in a messaging conversation at the same time. Parents and children should be aware, however, that information and pictures shared privately on Whatsapp might be sent on to other people.
Like Instagram, SnapChat is a photo- and video-sharing network. The big difference is that on SnapChat, friends and followers have less than 10 seconds to view the image or video until it is deleted.
Digital Parents should note, however, that while this sounds like the perfect way to exchange media messages safely, it is possible for users to take a ‘screenshot’ – a photo of what is currently on the screen of their smartphone or tablet – and save the image for as long as they want, or share more widely on the internet.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter is designed to send and read very short messages (just 140 numbers, letters and spaces). Although ‘tweets’ can be private, most messages can be read and shared by anyone else on the internet, even if they are not Twitter users themselves.
Twitter users can follow people they know or are particularly interested in such as singers like Fahad Al Kubaisi, media personalities and news organisations. Although most tweets are text based, it is also to possible to share images and links to websites.
Far and away the largest and most successful social network in the world, Facebook allows users to create their own page on the web which they can use to share photographs, updates about themselves and what they are doing, play games, watch and share videos and much more. Users connect with their friends and can decide how much of their information can be seen by different people using privacy controls.
Facebook is available on almost all internet-enabled devices with specific apps available for smartphones and tablets and in many cases is replacing normal text (SMS) messages as a way of young people keeping in touch with their friends.
Although there are many positive uses for Facebook, some children and teenagers suffer bullying through the application, commonly called cyberbullying.
Messenger is a way of sending private message to specific friends or groups of friends from Facebook. It is extremely popular with teenagers and is often used to organize their ‘real world’ social lives as well as to communicate and share in the digital world.