By Shannon Fitzgibbon

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram defy all physical barriers to connect users worldwide. Many are introduced to friends new and old, and recent developments have connected brands with users interests. By literally identifying what we “like” or “engage” with on social media platforms, brands are able to tailor their advertisements towards users that are more likely to engage with the brand. For instance, if one user “follows” and “engages” with posts related to sports, they may see more targeted advertisements from sports brand companies that sell tickets or jerseys. Online shopping and social media has become another conjunction of its own. Photo-sharing apps such as Instagram and Snapchat have even allocated an entire “online shopping” feature to brand’s products for all users to use. All in all, there are definite changes in how brands interact with the users of social media which directly impact each user’s experience.

Algorithm: In order to ensure you stay interested in the media on the platform, social media each has their individual algorithm in place to engage users. Here are some basic components to how social media platforms are able to tailor to the users:

  • What you’re interested in and follow
  • Your relationship with the account
  • When you respond to posts
  • How often you engage with the posts

All in all, this data is collected throughout your time on social media and solicited by brands to help gage an appropriate audience.

Advertisements online: Paid advertisements are designed to increase brand awareness, which is one of the most effective strategies to overall promote the brand. Social media, of all varieties, allows for data to be collected on large consumer audiences for brands to target. This ultimately removed much of the leg work in advertising, as social media users clearly

Privacy: As a parent or educator, it is important to know how and why this information is gathered on all users of social media, regardless of age. Young children are becoming more and more equipped to be social online and offline all the same. In order to best navigate the online world, there are numerous factors in which we can all use to protect our information from the wrong persons.

First, reading up on the various social media websites that you or your student regularly uses can help you gage how your student’s information is used. For some, the data is collected and distributed among brands to tailor paid advertisements or to just keep the individual engaged on the social media platform. If this is an infringement on you or your student’s privacy, there are multiple ways that you can limit the information gathered:

  • Turning off location settings
  • Stop sharing the media/pictures on you or your student’s device
  • Turning off the microphone on you or your student’s device when not actively in use
  • Finally, deleting the social media account and app from device

For parents and educators alike, the world of social media is new to us all. Learning how to navigate it and how our social media accounts are tailored to our unique interests is just one aspect of using social media.

For more information regarding social media and privacy, please read “Social Media Privacy Check Ups.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can you identify times where you had advertisements tailored directly to you? What was the advertisement for and where did it occur?
  2. Which social media platform that you use do you spend the most time on? What separates this one from others?
  3. Why would social media algorithms want users to be on social media for extended amounts of time?


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