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Facebook launches 'Lifestage' app for teens: Can they win back young people?

Lifestage, a new video-centric app by Facebook, only allows members ages 21 and younger. 

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    In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia.
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It's been nearly three years since Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, admitted that "coolness is done for us." 

But while Mr. Zuckerberg and his company may have given up on making the social network, now occupied by teens and elders alike, cool again, they've now launched a new app that is virtually parent-proof. 

Lifestage, created by 19-year-old Facebook employee Michael Sayman, is a video-centric social networking app that lets users keep in touch with friends by posting selfies and videos. Like Facebook, which at its inception in 2004 was a website exclusively for college students, Lifestage is designed to allow high school students to connect with their peers. And, to ensure that the app doesn't go the way of Facebook in attracting an older demographic, Lifestage has a maximum age limit of 21.

Though Facebook is still the most widely used social networking site, with nearly 1.6 billion users and 72 percent of American adults possessing an account, its popularity among the teen crowd has waned in recent years. Today, only 17 percent of teens say it's the most important app. 

The primary reason for teens flocking to other social apps such as Snapchat or Twitter is a simple one: their parents. A European Global Media Impact Study (GMIS) in 2013 found that the growing number of parents and grandparents on Facebook was the main motivation behind teens' mass exodus. 

"Mostly they feel embarrassed to even be associated with it," wrote Daniel Miller, a professor at University College London and lead anthropologist for the GMIS research team. "Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives." 

Lifestage's age restrictions aim to prevent the new app from falling victim to a similar fate. While anyone can download and join Lifestage, only people ages 21 and younger can view other users' profiles. 

Its creators also hope the nature of the app itself will be more appealing to high school and college students: Snapchat, another photo- and video-centric app, is currently the most popular among teens, with Facebook-owned photo sharing app Instagram in second place. 

"I wanted to work on an app that my demographic would relate to, or at least that my friends would want to use," Mr. Sayman, the creator of Lifestage, told TechCrunch. "What if I figured out a way to take Facebook from 2004 and bring it to 2016?" 

The popularity of Lifestage could vary from place to place, as students can only view others' profiles once 20 people from their high school have joined. But regardless of whether the app catches on among teens and succeeds on its own, Lifestage could provide Facebook with a lesson in how to incorporate video in a way that will appeal to a younger crowd, suggests TechCrunch's Josh Constine. 

"Lifestage takes an innovative stance," he writes. "You could say your dog is your favorite pet, you love Radiohead or that this is who you're dating. But with videos, those aren’t lines of generic text. They’re totally unique videos that truly tell the story of who you are. That same idea could make Facebook seem fresh, even if it’s almost as old as the kids Lifestage was built for."

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