The growing digital world elicits mixed reactions and feelings. Social media, such as: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram, just to name a few, have introduced new possibilities in communication, networking, and staying connected to others. With these growing possibilities, navigating technology and social media can be fun, confusing or just plain common.
Increasingly, teenagers are spending more time on social media and parents are expressing ambivalence and sometimes frustration. danah boyd (she prefers not to capitalize her name), the author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens researched the role social media plays in the lives of teenagers. She emphasizes that the activities at the core of social media are here to stay. They include:
- self expression
- exploring privacy and
- sharing information
For parents, what does that mean? It may suggest that learning the role social media has and understanding the culture, in the context of teenagers, can decrease concerns and help to manage expectations. Understanding the uses of social media can help parents provide support and assist a teen in appropriately and respectfully navigating social interactions and increasing their autonomy.
Embracing the new trends can be a positive experience rather than a dreaded and anxiety provoking one. A partnership can be developed between a parent and a teenager, rather than having conflict and contention. A parent can learn more about social media nuances; better understand the role social media has for their child while providing insight and guidance. boyd elaborated on “four affordances” that “shape mediated environments created by social media.” They are:
These are likely what contribute to parents’ anxiety but are areas teenagers may not readily reflect on due to their developmental stage. Helping a teenager gain awareness of these four areas, while meeting their needs to socialize with peers, can have a positive impact on their social media activity.
Overall, as trends continue to change, it is useful to keep an open mind while providing supervision and support. An open discussion, asking questions and communicating with your teen is useful to reinforce positive and negative consequences that engaging in social media may present.
Written by Erica David, PsyD