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Messaging Apps Draw Teens Away From Facebook

Christina Ulsh
Polytechnic High School students in Fort Worth.

Teenagers are heavy users of social media that keeps their thoughts, actions, and whereabouts private, a stark reversal from five years ago when the goal for many teens on social media was collecting public likes and friends. Here's a look at what kids are doing with their phones when their teachers face the board.

Never mind that it’s the middle of the school day at Polytechnic High School in Fort Worth. The students have their phones out. They're sending each other notes, drawings, memes, and videos.

They turned up the volume on their phones -- the beeps were fast and frantic. 

“What’s your Kik?" said one girl, asking about a username so she could say "hey" to her friend.  Soon it was too much: "Stop kicking me!”

Unless you’re under 20 or live with someone that age, you’ve probably never heard of Kik. It has 185 million users who prefer not to post things for their parents or bosses to see online—in other words, teenagers.

“You gotta be smart and think twice before you say something that  you’re going to regret,” said sophomore Maria Rosales. Since being smart and thinking twice aren't usually a teenager's strongest points, she now rarely posts on Facebook or anywhere else that attaches her name to content.

Her classmate Kristen Jauregui says she learned from her friends to keep incriminating things off public social media.

“I recorded a fight, and people wanted to see it. So I posted it on Facebook, and people started messaging me to take it down so I wouldn’t get in trouble,” she said. 

This happened in eighth grade, half a lifetime ago for a sophomore.

Senior Ashley Black is applying for colleges -- no way is she posting something that would raise an eyebrow in an admissions office. She knows people who got fired for their posts on social media, and thinks it’s more of a mistake that older people make.

“On my Facebook, all the 20-year-olds are posting where they are, who they’re with. They don’t think before they do stuff," she said.

"They’re always posting about going to clubs, getting tattoos, stuff like that. Teenagers just post pictures of their food," she said.  

Messaging apps like Kik and Snapchat now represent a threat to Facebook’s dominance, as teens report using it less on a daily basis. Last year Facebook tried to buySnapchat for $3 billion, but the offer was rejected. Sophomore Misael Sanchez uses lots of public social media apps: Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and more private ones. But if you search for his profile on Instagram, it's pretty tame. 

“Just stuff that I accomplished -- mainly soccer,” he said. In other words: a cultivated profile for his parents and prospective employers.

Misael also once posted a video of a school fight, when he was younger and still posted interesting things on Facebook. But he quickly took it down -- there's no reason to get in trouble for a few extra "likes."

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