How Teens Use YouTube & Social Media: The Online Generation Gap

How Teens Use YouTube & Social Media: The Online Generation Gap

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I interviewed popular teenage Internet entrepreneur, professional blogger, and Huffington Post writer Chloe Spencer about why and how her fellow teenagers perceive and interact with online video differently from their older counterparts. She also give some great advice for getting teens to stay out of serious trouble by posting questionable videos on YouTube.Chloe was one of the speakers on the panel “Teen Entrepreneurs Give the Inside Scoop on Social Media,” at the recent Social Media Optimization Conference in San Francisco. Each of the panelists was a teenager themselves, who had already built a success business around using social media to connect with the right audience.

How Today’s Teenagers Are the First “Online Video Generation”

How do you think teenagers (aka, millenials, genY’s), perceive online video different from their older counterparts?

Teenagers today see online video as a normal every-day type of activity, as they have grown up during the age of technology.

How do you think video became so widely transformative for teen culture?

During our middle school and high school years, YouTube was always a hugely popular platform. Most teens consider it to be the “normal” way of watching video (as opposed to television). Certain YouTube videos would take the younger generation by storm; they’d be talked about in the hallways of schools to even the dining table at home. It’s just about impossible for teens to remember the days before YouTube and other online video websites.

Teens Share More Videos Than The Older Generation

Teenagers consume these videos as they would gossip and TV shows and magazines – whatever video makes an impression on them, they share. They share it by word of mouth, through Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, instant messengers, cellphones; I do consider teenagers to truly be “the generation of technology.”

Teens More Comfortable with Creating Videos Than the Older Generation

Creating videos for this generation comes as naturally as creating an essay in school. Teenagers are not only creative; they are very impressionable. They express their findings in life both verbally and visually, through all means of technology. Compared to older generations like their parents’, navigating the web and generating online videos and fads that spread like wildfire comes as easily as riding a bike.

Online Video’s Generation Gap Problem

What do you think the older generation doesn’t get about how teenagers respond to video online?

Adults today have trouble imagining the life kids have today where they never have consciously had to live without cellphones, computers and social media. It is an accepted part of life for teenagers now, which is unfathomable and almost aggravating to those who never experienced this kind of convenient living. What adults today didn’t have during their schooling years was social media; and the way of communicating nowadays’ teenagers take for granted – the wide Web plus an array of electronic devices such as iPhones and Blackberries, iPads and laptops.

More Teens Getting in BIG Trouble with Online Video

What are some ways you think the younger generation is putting video out online that could get them into serious trouble? Why do you think they are apt to be doing that?

Teenagers, as always, are impulsive; and let’s face it, at times they’re pretty bad decision makers. They don’t think before they act and they have an uncanny knack doing things they will later regret. Teenagers have a hard time seeing possible future consequences for their actions. It is indeed true that the human brain doesn’t fully develop and mature until a person’s mid-twenties.

What would you say is most different about teenagers of today than when the older generation was teenagers?

The only different thing about teens today is that now they have a plethora of platforms to make these mistakes on, very publicly and not so easily taken back or removed.

Where would you say teenagers are getting into most of their trouble online?

Facebook is the number one platform that gets teenagers into trouble for posting information they shouldn’t have posted that was found by the wrong person. YouTube is another platform the younger generation doesn’t take seriously enough. Posting videos of parties or fights or drunken spiels about fellow schoolmates, co-workers, teachers or bosses, get many teenagers into trouble today. What they don’t realize is that even if that video is later removed (after sobering up or perhaps just thinking twice) it is still accessible on the Internet. Almost everything that was ever posted on Facebook or YouTube or wherever online is permanent; and, viewable by the people they least want reading or seeing it!

Can Teens Behave More Responsibly with Online Video?

What are some of the ways you can think of to encourage social responsibility in teenagers with online video, despite these developmental and cultural challenges they face?

The fact still remains that teenagers can be a lot more careful with what they post online by just thinking about who could see it, and the possible consequences of that.

A good way to make sure you aren’t posting information online that could get you into trouble is to think, “Would I let my parents and my grandparents see this? My boss? My school Principal?” If you answered “No” to any of those questions, you probably should not post what you were going to share online.

Instead, send your funny video, photo or whatever it may be in an email to your close friends. By not sending it to too many people or to people you don’t trust fully, you are eliminating the possibility that it could still leak to those you didn’t want to see it.

Author’s note: I’ve actually recently covered here at ReelSEO about how even sending what you think is a private video to friends, could still get leaked to those you don’t want to see it. Attorney Mark J. Rosenberg commented that even if you email only one other person a video of someone else you shot, that itself could implicate a violation of their privacy rights.

What do you think of some young adults are now being jailed and getting felony convictions for videos they post on YouTube?

Like with Evan Emory, his intentions were not to harm or offend anyone or certainly to get himself jail time, only as a joke that he shouldn’t have made public online for all to see. What he should have done, if he really wanted to share that video as a joke with his friends… perhaps he could have just showed the video to them on his computer when they came over to his house, or another private setting.

The Evan Emory case is a perfect example of how far an online video meant for only humorous purposes can go, to what you never imagined could have happened by posting it on the Web. You may think, “Oh that will never happen to me”, but that was what Emory was thinking too.

My best advice to give is that you are ALWAYS better off safe than sorry. No matter how harmless you think your video or other content you post online may be, it can always be perceived in a totally different light by someone else; especially, by the ones targeted in the video or affected by it.

About Teenage Internet Entrepreneur Chloe Spencer

Chloe Spencer is a 19-year-old blogger who started her first blog,, at 14 years old, a fan site on the hugely popular Nickelodeon-owned site Neopets. Some pages of her blog sport more than 5,000 comments. Chloe monetized her page 1 Google rankings and thousands of daily pageviews into cold hard cash with Google AdSense at age 15 and by 17 she had made 5 figures passive income from She’s a busy girl and being not so much a Neopets fanatic anymore, she hires bloggers and content editors to contribute to her site. Right now Chloe is working on several new projects, including a training program on how to make money online, a Facebook application she designed, and, a fashion blog to-be. Chloe is also a writer for The Huffington Post, and She also has a personal blog,

Chloe has spoken at BlogHer, SMX West, Ypulse, DMA, BlogWorld & New Media Expo, SES, BlogPaws, and SMOC. She’s presented live on Denver’s 9News to an estimated 1.2 million viewers. She also appeared on the Bay Area’s ABC7 News as part of their coverage of the BlogHer conference.

Chloe is originally from Wisconsin but now resides in Los Angeles, where she runs her companies and does SEO as an individual consultant for clients.


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