We read almost daily about the negative impact of social media on children — cyberbullying, defriending, sexting —- is there anything positive to be said? The good news answer is yes, according to some research.
According to one study, 52 percent of teens using social media reported it as a benefit to their friendships. Reassuringly, only 4 percent reported that their social media usage mostly harmed their friendships. Many teens, about 29 percent, even reported that their social networking makes them feel more outgoing. Only 5 percent reported that social networking made them feel less outgoing. Another study found that American teens feel less lonely because of their social media usage compared to teens from earlier decades.
Parents often worry about age inappropriate exposure to topics online. This is a realistic fear. Your child or teen’s websurfing should be transparent to parents and should be the topic of regular discussions between parents and any child old enough to surf the net. Don’t let your teens convince you that regular parental monitoring of their online usage somehow infringes on their “privacy rights”. This is one area that should not be considered off-limits to parents by teens. One website suggests posting a google alert with your child’s name so you know when items about your child hit the internet. This is an additional tool, however, not a substitute for actual parental “eyes on” monitoring.
On the positive side, social networking online can pave the way for kids with unusual interests to find other kids from all over the world who share their interest. If his or her local peers view that interest as less than “cool”, receiving online support and a sense of inclusion and belonging online can be very positive, promoting feelings of competence and self worth. Because social media allows kids to connect and share with a very broad audience, it can offer valuable experience in learning to collaborate with people from all over the world.
Social networking can also give kids an online presence that helps bring about positive change. They are exposed to issues from all over the world and to many different viewpoints regarding those issues. Again, frequent monitoring of your child’s online activities coupled with frequent friendly discussions about what your child is exploring and learning online will help ensure that social media and the web remain a positive addition to your child’s life.
The Law Office of Jeanne Coleman practices family law, dependency law, and social security disability law in the Tampa Bay community. Providing helpful information to families online is one more way Jeanne gives back to our community. Her law firm has helped families resolve important legal issues for over twenty-five years. A free twenty-minute consultation is available by contacting her office.