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Stay Virtually Connected to Kids and Grandkids by Moving Beyond Facebook

How to make sure you don't miss out.

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image of social media icons hanging from pole, instagram, tiktok, twitter, facebook, social life, communication
Alex Merto
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If you’re one of the millions of people who use Facebook but have not dabbled in social media beyond it, you’re not alone. However, if you’re limiting yourself to Facebook, you could be missing out — especially on connecting with your kids and grandkids.

As the founder of the tech coaching company TechMoxie, I get a lot of questions from clients about social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. Whenever they ask me whether they should try them out, my answer is always a resounding yes.

Here are a few of the platforms I recommend and why, along with tips for staying safe on them. You may find some platforms more interesting than others; each offers something different.

No matter which of the following you choose to explore, remember: You do not have to post or share if that isn’t your style. You can simply enjoy the content posted by others — family, friends or social media personalities known as “creators.”

Twitter: You may well wonder how a platform that only allows posts with 240 characters or fewer (including spaces and punctuation) could have grown to over 330 million active users. One reason is that Twitter is a wonderful source for breaking news (and I do not mean fake news).

While visiting California a few years back, I felt a deep rumble. Was it an earthquake? Perhaps it was just vibrations from a heavy truck. Being from the East Coast, I was clueless. A quick Twitter search using the words “earthquake” and “Los Angeles” returned dozens and soon hundreds of Tweets from others about the rumbles.

A story does not have to be huge to make its way to Twitter; the platform is a great source for very specific local information. Once, while at the airport picking up my daughter, I saw a huge plume of smoke billowing near the runways. The rational part of my brain believed it was nothing serious — I didn’t see or hear emergency vehicles. But the terrified mom in me feared the worst. Stuck in the car with no one to ask, I searched Twitter with the airport’s name and the word “fire.” Within seconds, up came a tweet from the airport’s fire and rescue department saying that they would be conducting drills and visitors should expect to see fire and smoke.

Twitter Safety Tip: Be mindful of the source of your information, and verify it by checking other reliable sources.

Instagram: For many of my friends, this is the go-to platform to see pictures of their adult children and their grandkids. It is designed for mobile devices, making it a wonderful tool for people to post on the go. In fact, while you can view Instagram from a web browser, you can only share on Instagram from a smartphone.

So, what’s the appeal? Instagram’s layout is simpler and less cluttered than Facebook’s (which is considered old-school by millennials on down). Also, the emphasis is on photos and short videos, making Instagram perfect for sharing family vacations, baby shots and, of course, food pix. It’s popular among the creative set, so many users join to follow singers, comedians and actors. Two of my favorite Instagram accounts are from Celeste Barber, who hilariously sends up the modeling world, and Humans of New York, which features moving stories of ordinary New Yorkers.

Instagram Safety Tip: I recommend making your account “private” so that only the followers you’ve approved can see your posts. Otherwise, you’ll probably have fake accounts, which are up to no good, following you. You can make your account private by going to Settings, Privacy and then switching Account Privacy to on.

TikTok: This platform attracts the youngest social media users. Most do not post but rather join to watch a never-ending feed of short videos posted by creators. TikTok algorithms “decide” what you are likely to enjoy in your feed. I see comedians, dancers, makeup tutorials, heartfelt confessions and, of course, the occasional ads. Don’t like a video? Swipe up — there are always more.

If this all seems a bit inane, it often is. But it also can be very amusing and incredibly addictive. One night I watched so many TikToks (as the videos are called) that I got a warning from the app that I might need a break (!). Even worse, it suggested that I try some deep breathing. When I glanced at the clock, I was horrified to see how much time had evaporated. But who doesn’t like a good laugh?

TikTok Safety Tip: As with Instagram, I recommend setting your account to private so that you aren’t “followed” by random accounts.

I find that those who are most successful with technology are those who are curious and willing to try new things. Connecting with family and friends on various social media platforms is a great way to stretch your brain and stay in touch. Plus, you’ll feel very hip when the younger crowd laughs about the latest TikTok trend and you already know about it!

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