What is Twitter? A Parent Guide

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What is Twitter? A Parent Guide

October 16, 2014
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Table of Contents

We created this a parent’s guide to help you better understand how students use Twitter.

What is Twitter?

  • Twitter is an online social network, which allows you to send instant messages (called Tweets) up to 280 characters in length
  • Tweets can include photos, videos, and links to other websites
  • Those posts can become available to all users around the world in a matter of seconds
  • Tweets can be posted by using a mobile app or website
  • Other users can “Favorite” and “Retweet” the post if they like it. In this case, the tweet goes far beyond the original user’s followers
  • Most Twitter accounts are set to public. However, if the account is set as private, then only approved followers can see posted Tweets
  • When Tweets are posted they can’t be edited. Posts only can be deleted

How are students using Twitter?

Students may think Twitter is a safe place to share their thoughts, feelings, and personal life away from their parents.
  • Kids tweet when they are bored at school
  • They like it when they gain “retweets” and their message is marked as “favorite” by their followers when they post silly messages, jokes, photos & videos
  • Kids follow their favorite celebrities and popular Twitter users
  • They share school news and rumors
  • Teens are using #hashtags a lot, however, kids don’t realize that every word is searchable on Twitter (whereas on Instagram a message is only searchable based on the hashtags it contains)

Some teens don’t know that Tweets can get them fired or expelled

A thoughtless or hateful post can ruin your career, so better to keep your social accounts Light, Bright & Polite™.

A young woman that worked in the entertainment industry thought it would be fun to release secret information and used her twitter profile to announce spoiler info before new TV show episodes were aired. She found out that she was fired when her producer/boss replied promptly by Tweeting: "Hope you're qualified to do something besides work in entertainment." When she announced this information she was leaking company secrets without thinking what is in the best interests of her employer (or her career). Another story is about a young woman that was offered a job at Cisco. Immediately after receiving the offer, she tweeted: “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the fatty paycheck against the daily commute and hating the work.” Cisco employees are trained to listen to their brand’s name on Twitter and use that to perform great customer service. Quickly, an employee at Cisco responded on Twitter with: “Who is the hiring manager? I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the Web.” She hadn't even started working at Cisco, and yet her tweet ruined her chances of having a career at a global corporation. From Business Insider.

Tactical Tip: If you ever want to talk badly about a company or person, consider calling someone instead of posting it online.

What should parents know about Twitter?

  • Tweets are visible and can spread in a matter of seconds
  • To find your students on Twitter, you need to know their @usernames (not all teens are using their real names)
  • Students are using Direct Message (DMs) to talk privately to each other
  • Anyone can contact your student publicly. Your student must follow them to receive direct messages
  • Some teens use Twitter to bully other teens (by tagging their @names)
  • Students sometimes freely share personal information, without knowing that it can all be searched
  • It’s easy to find tweets by #hashtags, keywords, location, user, or other criteria by visiting search.twitter.com

What can parents do to protect their kids on Twitter?

  1. Add your student to a Twitter list so you can see all their tweets without following them directly/openly.
  2. Don’t reply or retweet their tweets (unless they want you to). Most students want their space on Twitter and would like to feel like they are not being followed by their parents.
  3. Check their tweets to know what’s going on in their lives (and talk to them about it in real life).
  4. Suggest your students set their profiles to private.
  5. Explain that if they don’t want you (their parent, teacher, or other adult) to see certain message or photos, maybe it shouldn't be posted at all.
  6. Report inappropriate and offensive content.

Twitter doesn’t have age restrictions

However, if your student is under 13 years old, you can request to delete the account. Just email privacy@twitter.com and provide all necessary information.

Here are some helpful tools to search and view Tweets:

Tweet Location Map.

Twitter Advanced Search.

What questions do you have about Twitter? Let us know in the comment section below. If you liked this, please share our What Is Twitter? blog post with your friends by clicking on our social media buttons.

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