Should parents be concerned over their teens and social media?

It is no understatement to say that the Internet has become a pervasive presence in modern life. On one hand, it has made knowledge more accessible, especially to young students. With a few clicks on the mouse button and keyboard, a student can instantly gain access to a wealth of information he can use for his studies. And with platforms like social media, people, including adolescents, have found a valuable tool for communication and for nurturing relationships.

But when it comes to the concept of teens and technology, especially social media, many parents have been voicing concerns about key issues including cyber-bullying, sexual predators and privacy.

Teens and social media: the benefits

As more and more research comes out, it can be argued that social media offers several benefits for teens.

First, it can be used as a valuable tool to nourish and strengthen friendships. Indeed, there may have been instances wherein friendships were hurt because of it, but such instances are a minority.

Furthermore, social media has enabled teens to gain a sense of belongingness while minimising the feeling of isolation. True, many of today’s teens, as compared to their counterparts in the previous decades, may have fewer friends. However, today’s teens report being less lonely.

Online communities like Facebook groups have enabled teens to find groups where they are accepted and embraced for what they are. This can provide a teen who may feel marginalised offline the support and validation he or she might be looking for.

Social media can also function as a platform for creative and artistic teens to share their creations and get feedback on their works.

Finally, social media provides teens a platform, both to be informed about the latest events around the world and to voice their own opinions on matters that are close to them.

Reasons for parents to worry less

But despite these benefits, many parents cannot help but feel concerned about their teens spending time online, especially on social networks.

According to Microsoft and Harvard researcher and author Danah Boyd, parents should not worry too much about their kids and their online lives. In her book entitled “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens,” Boyd argues that modern teenagers are spending their time online because of their limited choices. She even contends that today’s teens aren’t much different from their counterparts from the past decades.

On the issue of sexual solicitation and variations of thereof, 75 percent of the respondents in Boyd’s studies said they did not become afraid of these. Sixty-nine percent said that in such solicitations, no attempts were made for offline contact. Boyd also highlights the decline of sex crimes against minors, starting in 1992.

On the issue of privacy, parents often think that their children share too much online. However, Boyd argues that teens are also concerned about privacy and use privacy settings of social networks to choose who views the content they post online.

On the issue of bullying, Boyd says that the Internet has not made the issue more prevalent. Rather, it has made the problem more visible. As such, she argues that technology should not be blamed for highlighting issues.

If you’re concerned about your teen or adolescent’s use of social media or behaviour, search our directory of therapists and counsellors that specialise in adolescent counselling.