5 Social Media Sites That Grandparents Should Know

Cyberspace Hangouts That Your Grandchildren May Use

Your grandchildren may have never lived in a world without social media. If they are teenagers or younger, they are younger than the first social media sites. Grandparents are a different story. Most of us have lived the majority of our lives without the ability to link up online.

The generations also tend to share online in radically different ways, and with a different level of enthusiasm. Grandparents are often much less enamored of the whole social media phenomenon.

Still, grandparents should know something about the most popular sites. After all, if learning how to Snapchat or tweet will bring us closer to our grandchildren, most of us are all in!



Senior woman and her grandson (8-9) using laptop

Marcel Steger / Getty Images

Sometimes referred to as the new Facebook, Instagram has become immensely popular with the younger set. It began in 2010 as a simple app for sharing photos on mobile devices and gained fans by offering a variety of photo filters. It has since added features, such as the ability to post videos, but remains a primarily visual medium.

Some people, notably young people, have switched to Instagram from Facebook to avoid the political posts, game notifications, and hacking that have plagued that platform in recent years. 

Of all social media platforms, grandparents should be on Instagram, as this is where their grandchildren are most likely to be.

You must have an account in order to use Instagram, but you don't have to post unless you want to. Although you can view Instagram posts on your computer, you can post only from a mobile device. You can make Instagram an intimate experience by following only family and close friends, or you can use the search feature to find celebrities or interesting accounts to follow.  



Snapchat had a bit of a rocky beginning. Its gimmick — texts and images that disappear after a few seconds — gained it a reputation as a sexting app. It was, however, an immediate hit with teens. (Users must be at least 13.)

Snapchat fans like the ability to send images and messages to friends without posting them to a public platform and without worrying that they will live forever in cyberspace. Today lots of responsible adults use Snapchat, but here's the rub: Not many of them are over 35.

Part of the problem is that many older users find Snapchat hard to master. There's almost no text, just icons, and you navigate the app primarily by swiping and pinching the screen.

This is an app for mobile devices only, and youngsters who have grown up with hand-held devices usually have no problem feeling their way around the program. Older people aren't quite so comfortable with its design.

The latest innovation to cause a commotion is Snap Maps, a location feature that shows users where their friends are. Snap Maps is easily turned off, but it still has some parents worried about further erosion of their kids' privacy.

Still, there's no sign that Snapchat is losing ground among its fan base. There's also no sign of significant growth among grandparents.



Usually described as a micro-blogging platform, Twitter has gained notoriety recently as the favorite app of President Trump. Twitter allows its users to "tweet" messages of 280 characters or less. It also allows for the posting of images. All tweets are public, although there is a direct messaging feature. 

Twitter is distinctive for the wide variety of ways it is utilized by fans. News junkies love it as the fastest way to follow breaking news. Many others use it to find and follow their favorite celebrities. It's fun to use during a political debate, sports contest or TV show, to check the reactions of others and share your own.

Twitter isn't as suited to keeping up with grandchildren as other social media platforms, although you might enjoy tweeting with a grandchild during one of the events mentioned.



Tumblr is a blogging platform combined with a social network. Users post photos, links, quotations, audio files and videos. Tumblr is more focused on sharing than other blogging platforms, such as WordPress. Re-blogging is encouraged; in fact, getting re-blogged is the goal of many users.

Tumblr comes with its own ready-made community. It's possible to find online friends with shared interests without giving up your anonymity. Also, it's a great medium for sharing artwork, music, photography, and writing. 

Tumblr is basically a wide-open platform, which means that a lot of content is available that is inappropriate for kids. (It's suggested for those 17 and older.) Recently, however, it debuted a Safe Mode, which allows viewers to choose to hide explicit posts. Since the user has to make the choice, however, this isn't the same thing as parental controls.

Tumblr isn't a particularly good platform for connecting with grandchildren. It might, however, help you find fellow quilters or Dr. Who fans.



Facebook is now the grandparent of social media platforms. Launched in 2004, it's quite geriatric in technology years. It continues to be popular with all ages, although its demographic has steadily trended older. In addition, it has morphed from a platform for sharing personal posts to something else entirely.

Some call it a personalized portal—a platform that feeds you information about subjects in which you have demonstrated interest. Some posts are sponsored, but most come courtesy of your friend pool. 

If you have grandchildren old enough to be on Facebook—13 in most areas—you may have noticed that they don't post much these days. Chances are that they are using Snapchat or Instagram, or both, instead.

Still, you should probably stay on Facebook. Their parents are likely to use Facebook, and you need to keep up with your adult children, too. But remember to avoid Facebook faux pas if you want to keep your news feed free of family fusses.

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