Teens, Technology & Social Media: What to be Aware of

By Sue Scheff Posted May 12, 2015 under Educating Yourself, Guest Authors

A recent Pew Research Center report revealed that 92% of teens go online daily. Furthermore, 88% of teens have access to smartphones or cell phones and 90% of those teens send and receive an average of 30 texts per day.

Simply put: Teens are spending a lot of time in the digital world these days, which presents a new set of challenges when it comes to parenting teens.

We used to have to keep up with the teen-talk and slang offline. However now, with cyber-speak and text-talk, parents need to keep their eyes and ears alert to online lingo as well.

It may seem a bit daunting, but offline parenting can help our teens make better online choices.

Having the tech-talk is not like having the sex talk. A tech-talk is ongoing, it's a discussion you should start with your pre-teen and then continue to have with your teen practically on a daily basis. It is as imperative as talking with your teen about the risks associated with drinking and driving or abusing drugs. It's about having a conversation, before a confrontation ever takes place. It should be as common as asking your child about his or her day at school. It can also be part of your dinner time conversation or car ride chat. 

Chances are very good that your teen is more cyber-savvy than you are. Don't be afraid to ask him or her for help with technology. Ask your teen to teach you about new apps, new websites or online games. Engage in conversations with your teen about his or her cyber-life. This also gives you an opportunity to find out more about your teen – digitally speaking.

As the Pew Research Center report shows, social media is a major player in a teenager's life. Facebook is the most popular platform for teens with 71% of teen’s reporting to use it. Instagram and Snapchat ranked second and third with 52% and 41% of teens use of the platforms. These findings are similar to the findings of a January 2015 Pew Research Center study on adult use of social media. Parents have become very engaged in social media, which is a good thing, however you must remember – just as you are monitoring your teens, your teens are also watching you. 

You are your teen’s role model – not only offline, but also online. Think twice before posting images that could be embarrassing to your teen, gossiping online or using language that is less than appropriate. Your social media behavior matters. 

Another recent study released by Psychological Science supported previous research in confirming that teens are influenced by their peers – in particular their perception of the behavior of their peers – when it comes to risk taking. Furthermore, many teens experience FOMO (fear of missing out) and, often times, social media can amplify such feelings. 

When parenting your teen offline, it is important to consistently discuss your teen’s online life. This can play a vital role in helping to prevent your teen from potentially engaging in negative behaviors that could be caused by cyberbullying or feelings of sadness for being left out.

Ultimately, your teen has to believe you are someone he or she can trust. One of the top reason's teens don't tell their parents they are being harassed online is out of fear they will have their life-line (cell phone, computer, etc.) taken away.

Never underestimate the influence that social media, technology and peers can have on your teen and the choices he or she might make.

Keep your lines of communication open. Stay involved and interested in your teen's cyber-life. Be willing to learn about all areas of social media, especially new or emerging technologies.

The Internet is only a machine. It's the people that can make it harmful for others. We need to empower our teens to make the right choices. 

Sue Scheff is an author and parent advocate. She is the founder of Parents' Universal Resource Experts, Inc., which has helped thousands of families since 2001 with at-risk teenagers. Her first book, Wit's End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen continues to be resource for many parents raising teens today. Follow Sue on Twitter and join her on Facebook.

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