— WASHINGTON — Relieved your kids aren't posting embarrassing messages and goofy self-portraits on Facebook? They're probably doing it on Instagram and Snapchat instead.
The number of popular social media sites available on kids' mobile devices has exploded in recent years. The smartest apps now enable kids to chat informally with select groups of friends without bumping up against texting limits and without being monitored by parents, coaches and college admissions officers, who are frequent Facebook posters themselves.
Many of the new mobile apps don't require a cellphone or a credit card. They're free and can be used on popular portable devices such as the iPod Touch and Kindle Fire, as long as there's a wireless Internet connection.
According to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, more than three-fourths of teenagers have a cellphone and use online social networking sites such as Facebook. But educators and kids say there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Facebook for teenagers has become a bit like a school-sanctioned prom — a necessary rite of passage with plenty of adult onlookers — while apps such as Snapchat and Kik Messenger are the much cooler after-party.
Educators say they have seen everything from kids using their mobile devices to circulate online videos of school drug searches to male students sharing nude pictures of their girlfriends. Most parents, they say, have no idea.