The Five Moms

We are five moms from different backgrounds who have come together with a common concern: teenagers abusing OTC cough medicine to get high.

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October 02, 2015 —

Every month, we’re keeping you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at how technology and social media can impact friendships, conflicts and interactions among teens.

Parents often hear horror stories about the dangers of the internet and how technology can harm teenagers. Teens are cautioned to browse online and use technology with potential threats, such as internet predators and cyberbullies. Moreover, the conversation about how technology deprives teens of social skills and human interactions has become a hot topic between both parents and the media.

However, contrary to these popular negative sentiments, a new study by the Pew Research Center suggests that the ability to communicate digitally has actually made teens more connected and social. The research explores the results of a study conducted among 13 to 17-year-olds on their attitudes towards technology. The study identified several ways technology – including video games, mobile phones and social media – has transformed connectivity, friendships and conflict among adolescents.

The findings found that the digital realm has made it easier than ever for teenagers to hang out and even expand their social circles. Mobile texting and social platforms have given teens the ability to hang out digitally, when they may not be able to do so in person. Over half of the teens surveyed said that they texted their friends daily, but only one in four said that they hung out with their friends in person every day. Additionally, 72% of teens said that they spend time with their friends on social media and 23% said that they do so daily.

About 57% of teens have used social media or online games to form friendships online; however, most of these relationships tend to stay in the digital space. Girls were more likely to form online friendships through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, while boys were more likely to form them through online gaming. Regardless of gender, 83% of teenagers feel like social media helps bring them closer to their friends when they play games online together and 70% say it makes them feel better connected to their friends’ feelings.

While teens stated that they were generally happy with their digital lives, conflicts still arise on occasion. Social media can act as a hub for these issues – over one-half (52%) of all teens said that they have experienced conflict within their friend groups on social media. Issues sometimes stemmed from conversations that happened either online or over text message. Among these problems, teens noted feeling envious of seeing events online that they weren’t invited to. Also, if friendships ended, teen girls were more likely than boys to cut ties on social media using tactics like blocking, unfriending and untagging former friends from photos. Some teens even stated that they liked the drama of these virtual actions.

Although these findings convey some good news, as parents we still need to encourage our teens to pursue and find a balance between healthy online and offline peer resolution strategies. Parents need to remember to support teens in communicating positively with their peers regardless of whether that communication is happening online or offline. Find opportunities to ask about how your teen is spending his or her time online and who he or she may be talking to. This will ultimately make your teen more willing to open up and share how their digital experience is impacting them.

You can read more the full report here. What advice would you give to other parents about talking to their teen about how they spend time online? Please share with us in the comments below!