Teens exiting Facebook to avoid 'prying parents'

Even extended family monitoring feeds, say teens polled; many turn to Instagram, Twitter

The youth in Singapore are turning to Instagram, and other social media alternatives such as YouTube and Twitter. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The youth in Singapore are turning to Instagram, and other social media alternatives such as YouTube and Twitter. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Facebook is facing a teenage exodus.

Reflecting this global trend, the youth in Singapore are turning to Instagram, and other social media alternatives such as YouTube and Twitter.

According to a Sunday Times poll of 101 young people aged 12 to 19, one of their biggest reasons for jumping ship was prying parents.

Even grandparents and extended family members are monitoring Facebook feeds, leading to a "loss of privacy".

Bukit Batok Secondary School student Ilic Yap, 15, initially thought nothing of adding his parents as Facebook friends, but later felt reluctant to share his innermost thoughts on the site.

These included posts about his parents or "when my opinions are not the same as theirs", he said. "Also, maybe sometimes I'm stressed over school, but I don't want them to worry," he said.

Having his parents as Facebook friends also got him into trouble, as they could monitor when he played games online. Now, he uses Instagram and Twitter instead.

Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary School student Lynn Lee, 13, turned down her mother's "friend" request, given how her parent already "stalks" her brother on Facebook.

And when teenagers leave Facebook because of spying adults, more will follow suit. As 15-year-old Clenyce Tan from Raffles Girls' School pointed out, "when your friends stop using Facebook, there's no one to talk to there".

Around 63 per cent of those surveyed said Instagram was their most popular network. It is simpler, they said, but more importantly, less invasive because the older generation has not caught up with it yet. YouTube and Facebook tied for second place, each receiving 12 per cent of their votes.

Teenagers have other issues with Facebook, the world's biggest social network, with 1.28 billion users. Many complained about the site being cluttered, with their news feeds plagued by irrelevant notifications.

They said they want platforms that do not have ads and complex interfaces.

"Those (notifications) are usually for games, but we don't really play games any more. We listen to music and message one another instead," said Kong Li Shiang, 13, from Chung Cheng High School (Main).

Schoolmate Tan Xin, 13, said they use WhatsApp for texting and Instagram for sharing photos, adding that "you can get more 'likes' from friends" on Instagram.

Nitika Gurung, 13, from Guangyang Secondary School, said: "(Twitter and Instagram) do not require as much... personal information. I feel more protected."

Industry analyst Treepti Jaswal from consulting firm Frost & Sullivan (Asia-Pacific) noted: "Many teens across Asia-Pacific do not want to be connected to their parents through social networks, which is relatively prevalent on Facebook, compared with other networks."

They prefer the more exclusive vibe of Twitter - which has a younger demographic - and YouTube, she added. "Teens are getting involved in social media at a younger age than, maybe, five years ago. It is a natural progression for teens to experiment with various platforms and move on."

Even Facebook chief financial officer David Ebersman admitted late last year to Forbes and Bloomberg that teenagers use the platform less. A study released this year by digital agency iStrategy Labs found that as many as a quarter of Americans aged 13 to 17 have left the social network over the past three years.

"Facebook is getting old," said Shermaine Pang, a 13-year-old from Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary. "People have been using Facebook for too long. We used to use it a lot in primary school."


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