The top social media sites change from year to year. Remember MySpace? It is barely even mentioned anymore. For your research, this is a list of top social media sites as of April 2016 and a description of each.
Each site or app holds data in similar ways and also in very different ways. We are at the mercy of each app when it comes to the evidence it might hold. Some data can be gathered from a mobile device or computer itself, while others require us to have access to the actual account.
- Facebook. Allows people to post information including pictures, videos, comments, as well as having personal conversations or group conversations. Allows people to follow the activities of other people, but not without them knowing. In addition to this it can be used to transfer money between two parties. One of the most popular social media outlets in the world.
- Kik Messenger. An app that lets people text for free. It’s fast and has no message limits, character limits, or fees if you only use the basic features. Because it’s an app, the texts won’t show up on your phone’s messaging service, and you’re not charged for them (beyond standard data rates). Capable of sharing graphics as well.
- ooVoo. Is a free video, voice, and messaging app. Users can have group chats with up to 12 people for free — and it’s common for kids to log on after school and keep it open while doing homework. Maybe they’re using it for group study sessions?
- Whatsapp. Let’s users send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message limits or fees.
- Instagram. Let’s users snap, edit, and share photos and 15-second videos, either publicly or with a private network of followers. It unites the most popular features of social media sites: sharing, seeing, and commenting on photos. It also lets you apply fun filters and effects to your photos, making them look high quality and artistic. Photos and videos shared on Instagram are public unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location information can make photos even more visible to communities beyond people’s followers if his or her account is public. Instagram Direct allows users to send “private messages” to up to 15 mutual friends. These pictures don’t show up on their public feeds. Although there’s nothing wrong with group chats, people may be more likely to share inappropriate stuff with their inner circles.
- Tumblr. A cross between a blog and Twitter: It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or “tumblelogs,” that can be seen by anyone online (if made public). Many teens have tumblelogs for personal use: sharing photos, videos, musings, and things they find funny with their friends. This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes raunchy. Pornographic images and videos and depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.
- Twitter. A microblogging site that allows users to post brief, 140-character messages — called “tweets” — and follow other users’ activities. It’s not only for adults; teens like using it to share tidbits and keep up with news and celebrities. Though you can choose to keep your tweets private, most teens report having public accounts.
- Vine. A social media app that lets users post and watch looping six-second video clips. This Twitter-owned service has developed a unique community of people who post videos that are often creative, funny, and sometimes thought-provoking. Teens usually use Vine to create and share silly videos of themselves and/or their friends and families. In three minutes of random searching, we came across clips of nudity and drug use. The videos you post, the accounts you follow, and the comments you make on videos all are public by default. But you can adjust your settings to protect your posts; only followers will see them, and you have to approve new followers.
- Burn Note. A messaging app that erases messages after a set period of time. Unlike many other apps of this sort, it limits itself to text messages; users cannot send pictures or video. That may reduce issues such as sexting — but words can hurt, too. The company claims that its “Multi-Device Deletion” system can delete a message from anywhere: the device it was sent from, the device it was sent to, and its own servers. But it’s wise to be skeptical of this claim.
- Whisper. A social “confessional” app that allows users to post whatever’s on their minds, paired with an image. With all the emotions running through teens, anonymous outlets give them the freedom to share their feelings without fear of judgment.
- Yik Yak. A free social-networking app that lets users post brief, Twitter-like comments to the 500 geographically nearest Yik Yak Kids can find out opinions, secrets, rumors, and more. Plus, they’ll get the bonus thrill of knowing all these have come from a 1.5-mile radius (maybe even from the kids at the desks in front of them!). By default, your exact location is shown unless you toggle location-sharing off. Each time you open the app, GPS updates your location. This app has it all: cyberbullying, explicit sexual content, unintended location-sharing, and exposure to explicit information about drugs and alcohol. Some teens have used the app to threaten others, causing school lockdowns and more. Its gossipy and sometimes cruel nature can be toxic to a high school environment, so administrators are cracking down.
- MeetMe. Chat and Meet New People,” says it all. Although not marketed as a dating app, MeetMe does have a “Match” feature whereby users can “secretly admire” others, and its large user base means fast-paced communication and guaranteed attention. Users can chat with whomever’s online, as well as search locally, opening the door for potential trouble.
- Omegle. A chat site (and app) that puts two strangers together in their choice of a text chat or video chat room. Being anonymous can be very attractive to teens, and Omegle provides a no-fuss opportunity to make connections. Its “interest boxes” also let users filter potential chat partners by shared interests.
- Skout. A flirting app that allows users to sign up as teens or adults. They’re then placed in the appropriate peer group, where they can post to a feed, comment on others’ posts, add pictures, and chat. They’ll get notifications when other users near their geographic area join, and they can search other areas by cashing in points. They receive notifications when someone “checks” them out but must pay points to see who it is.
- Tinder. A photo and messaging dating app for browsing pictures of potential matches within a certain-mile radius of the user’s location. It’s very popular with 20-somethings as a way to meet new people for casual or long-term relationships. You swipe right to “like” a photo or left to “pass.” If a person whose photo you “liked” swipes “like” on your photo, too, the app allows you to message each other. Meeting up is pretty much the goal. Geolocation means it’s possible for people to meet up with nearby people, which can be very dangerous.