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Facebook has launched a “youth portal” for “teens” featuring things “teens” like such as dancing emoji, social justice, and “blog posts.”

The company intends for the portal to serve as a youth resource — with a hefty dose of safety tips — so that they can “have a great experience” on Facebook. Experiences that teens are all definitely having, alongside their moms and comment-happy great aunts.

It emphasizes the fact that Facebook can “empower” youth; that it’s a great place to help teens find their voice, and have an impact. 

How do you do, fellow kids?

How do you do, fellow kids?

In August 2017, a report from eMarketer predicted that Facebook sign-ups among teens would decline for the first time ever in 2018. Even though plenty of teens still have Facebook, in terms of day to day usage, the report found that Facebook was losing out to Instagram and Snapchat in the under-25 demographic.

Facebook describes its new youth portal as a teen “guide to all things Facebook.” It says that through the portal, teens can learn to: “Find your people. Connect with your interests. Create cool stuff.”

So that teens can learn how to engage with a social network by reading a website, it provides an overview of Facebook with an emphasis on security and “mindful” sharing. Security and privacy do seem to be the crux of the portal — the URL is facebook.com/safety/youth.

On the actual portal, these icons are animated, which makes them appeal to teens.

On the actual portal, these icons are animated, which makes them appeal to teens.

It also includes a Teen Blog, featuring these things teens have definitely heard of called “blog posts.” They’re written by teens from around the world, and cover topics like self-esteem and “social activism.” I hear that activism is very important to Gen Z. And, it’s super important to Facebook!

Facebook has taken flak for its Messenger Kids platform, which serves kids ages 6-13. Critics say that starting kids on an (albeit, extremely parental controlled) social network will be detrimental to kids’ health and development. Facebook has also been weathering a firestorm of criticism around the extent of data that it collects about its users (and non-users). 

So while the youth platform contains resources For Teens By Teens, it also seems like a Facebook’s genuinely earnest attempt to ensure that its younger users don’t fall prey to the abuses its platform has enabled, and that its critics worry about. 

Or, the youth portal is at least something that shows that they’re trying.

When I was 15, I asked my mom if I could go to a venue on the Sunset Strip to see my friend’s band play. I remember this episode because, excruciatingly for teen moi, she then spent hours calling the club, my friends’ parents, and checking out that everything about the experience would be safe.

This “portal” seems like the digital equivalent of that process — perhaps more of a resource for parents than for actual “teens,” since the “youth portal” doesn’t actually have anything features-wise that would get teens back into Facebook.

The difference is, for teenagers these days, Club Facebook is just not the place to be.

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