Teens can network in new and uncertain ways, thanks to the Internet being available at their fingertips at virtually any hour of the day. If you have concerns about teen networking on the Internet -- usually called social networking -- carefully watching and monitoring your teen’s activities is wise.
Social networking websites are prevalent among teenagers. One challenge of social networking is the expansion of a teenager’s peer group, explains the WebMD website. Teens don’t always understand how to use social networking responsibly and safely, warns the Brown City Community School website. A teen might upload inappropriate images or share personal information such as his full name and geographic location. Even if a teen later removes images, the digital imprint remains accessible on the Internet, according to the Brown City Community School website.
Instead of your child being confined to interactions with kids at school, your child’s group of peers can include people from around the world, even moving into inappropriate age groups. Social networking websites can be a tool used by sexual predators looking for potential victims, warns the FBI. If teens do not have privacy settings created correctly or if teens persist in sharing images or suggestive information online, they can fall victim to a predator who could be posing as a young friend. Teenagers might share personal information and even agree to meet people they’ve met online. In fact, about 56 percent of people between ages 16 and 17 years would probably share their personal information online, according to the FBI.
Teens who spend time on social networks might have an increased incidence of negative risk-taking, reports the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Social networking websites often exhibit images of teenagers using drugs or drinking alcohol. CASA reports that 75 percent of teens indicate that seeing peers using alcohol or drugs on social networking websites makes them want to engage in similar activities. The message teens receive from these images is that using drugs and alcohol is fun.
Because the feedback and interaction available through social networking is randomly and continually available, it’s possible to develop an unhealthy dependency on these Internet experiences, according to the College of St. Scholastica. Teens might develop a craving for the external encouragement and support they receive through social media. Teens might spend a high percentage of their time engaging and connecting with others through Internet networking, even waking to check networking websites in the middle of the night.
- Web MD: Social Networking Tied to Teen Drug, Alcohol Use
- Brown City Community School: Safeguarding Your Teen from the Dangers of Social Networking
- FBI: Social Networking Sites
- CASA Columbia: National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens
- The College of St. Scholastica: “Net Effect”: Abuse, Dependency & Addiction to Technology
- Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images