I’ve been in a privileged position to see the process of increased technological integration that our world has undergone. While I’ve reflected on the presence of technology in our lives before, I would be remiss without giving special mention to social media. Ever since the explosion of membership on Facebook and the rise of Twitter, social media has fundamentally altered the fabric of daily life. Nowadays, I struggle to keep up with the newer forms of social media like TikTok, Clubhouse, and Discord. In general, social media introduced new trends such as pre-meal photography and constant life updates. Social media remains an ever-evolving medium to express ourselves and redefine our relationship with our community and the world. Here are a few things you should know about social media and your teenagers’ relationships with it.
The benefits of social media
There are numerous kinds of social media platforms that are designed slightly differently, each with its unique selling points. However, the primary force behind these platforms tends to be making connections through either facilitating relationships between members, curating content for people to enjoy, or some mixture of the two. What social media offers is an opportunity for teenagers to connect with the people around them. Such apps let teenagers document, share, and broadcast the events in their lives, while also keeping them in touch with their friends through messaging and content sharing. While teenagers predominantly connect with their peers through social media platforms, they can also stay in touch with their family members of any age group. Social media thus becomes their gateway to the world, both digitally and physically.
The dangers of social media
Social media’s detriments, like with any endeavour or activity, arise from unsuitable or uncontrolled usage. The speed of information and lax restrictions surrounding social media can make it dangerous for impressionable teenagers. Not only do our blunders spread like wildfire on the internet, but they are also hard to erase, which may have consequences in the future. Furthermore, with how simple it is to connect with new people, teenagers may easily and frequently meet unsavoury individuals. With information being easily falsified online, a teenager wandering into the wrong circles, talking to the wrong people, or even learning the wrong kinds of lessons is not unfathomable.
How to help your teenager
Most parents today have specific rules regarding social media; some implement screen time restrictions, some follow their children on social media. In my case, I had to share my login credentials with my parents. Draconian measures may appear to be the best type of control for your teenagers’ online lives at first; after all, they give parents the most amount of information.
However, this is the wrong approach angle;; for one, teenagers are savvy enough to create alternate accounts (named ‘alts’) to circumvent parental surveillance. For another, this undermines the relationship between parent and child, shifting it to one established by control rather than trust. Such measures will have implications far beyond trusting your teenager to use social media. Demanding to know about your child’s activities sends the wrong kind of message. Such actions show that parents would rather forcefully interfere in their children’s lives rather than give them the freedom to explore. Making an alternate social media account may be the first of many breakdowns in trust between parent and child.
A viable alternative is to engage your teenager in meaningful conversations about their online lives. You may require some research about the types of social media platforms your children use and the activities they are known and used for. Nonetheless, such actions demonstrate a genuine interest in your teenagers’ lives, which can encourage them to open up to you. Talking to your teenagers about their friend groups may not be the easiest conversation to have. However, showing that you respect their privacy and value their sharing is certainly a better way forward. Establish helpful guidelines for your teenager’s online life. Remind them never to post their real information openly online. Ask them to carefully think about whatever they post to their social media accounts. Advise caution when they meet up with online friends in real life. Encourage talking about each other’s experiences online in an open, honest fashion, and take that opportunity to remind your children that you are here for them.
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