CNBNewsnet (March 4, 2019)
To get what today’s teens hold in their hands all the time, their parents had to go to the library. The way youth perceives life and information has changed a lot with the spread of internet and social media. According to the Pew research center, 95% of teenagers have access to the online world through a smartphone with almost half of them (45%) being online constantly.
Gadgets and social media have broken the barriers, but the question is whether youngsters were ready for such freedom. Along with obvious benefits (such as unlimited excess to information, facilitated social connection and learning, and ability to express themselves) teens get a bunch of side effects if the parental control is absent or inefficient. Bullying, peer pressure, mental issues, and lack of in-person contact just to name a few.
In order to help make social media a safe environment for our children, we should be aware of the challenges (good or bad), social outlets expose them to.
Social media benefits for teenagers
1. Facilitated education and advanced tech skills
Do you want to create a website for school project? No problem. Social networks and educational content they feature make today’s kids more tech-savvy and able to solve more technologically complex tasks. Access to various groups of people through social media makes it easy to discuss questions, research topics, and conduct studies.
2. Keeping up with global trends and inter-cultural experience
Teenagers are able to keep their finger on the pulse of what is going on in their neighborhood, city, country and the whole world. It helps them comprehend themselves in the global context. Through communication with foreign friends, they can experience new cultures and develop more balanced ideas and points of view.
3.Socializing without barriers
Social networks make it easier for all teenagers to build relationships, make friends, and master networking skills. The virtual factor makes social networks especially beneficial for reserved teenagers who find it difficult to connect with peers physically, in the real world, and who would otherwise suffer from “barriers”. Being less stressful, such communication rewards teens with easy-to-get positive emotions through likes and encouraging comments, which increases the general level of happiness.
4. Help with expressing themselves
Various content formats (photographs, posts, videos, etc.) let teenagers creatively express their passions and personality. Through joining fan groups and connecting with people with the same interests, they get confidence that their opinion is important.
5. Access to the jobs posted
Teens are more likely to find relevant jobs as well as volunteer or internship positions while browsing their social media rather than on specialized job sites. They trust information shared by their friends, and this translates in being more open to new challenges, interests, and opportunities.
Negative effects of social media on teenagers
1. Cyberbullying and abuse
If a child uses social media without a caring parental control, they can get offended by their peers or adult people with bad intentions. Explain to your teenager how to act in case of being cyberbullied; otherwise, your child may feel too ashamed to tell you about the problem. Also, warn your child away from disclosing their personal location and information because of the risk of being abused by pedophiles who use social media to groom children (prepare them for a meeting).
Teenagers can easily get addicted to positive relaxing emotions and easy rewards social media gives them. If parents don’t limit the screen time, teens can get distracted and neglect their more important activities such as studying, sports, family relationships, and commitments. Parents should notice the decline in their child’s productivity and remove or at least limit devices in the crucial spheres of life to help a teen maintain a healthy lifestyle.
3. Social skills degradation
Overuse of social media can make it difficult for a teenager to communicate with people in real life destroying social skills. This, of course, can harm their future career and relationships. Only in-person contact can teach a child how to effectively interact with different kinds of people (using gestures, facial expressions, tone and style of voice, knowing what to say) in order to build an image of an attractive personality.
4. Compromised future
Social media give teens an erroneous sense of security letting them do things online they would never have the courage to do in a real life. This includes giving away too much information that can be used against them or posting compromising content. Warn your child that everything they publish stays there and can be shared or distributed beyond their control. One of the ways it can harm their future is when a potential employer uses social media to investigate into your personal life.
5. Unwanted advertising
This, again, has to do with disclosing too much personal data (such as where a child lives or their date of birth) which can be used by advertisers to target your teens as potential customers. Such an algorithm may result in your child seeing advertisement he or she is too immature for.
What should parents do to protect their teenagers in social media and online in general? Encourage your child to talk about the potential dangers of cyberbullying and how to act in this case, check history, and use parent controls software such as Qustodio, KidLogger, Safe Search Kids engine by Google, etc.