In Focus

Teenagers and Social Media

We live a lot of our lives online and connected via computers today, and there are a lot of benefits to this, especially in the education space.  Students and classes can collaborate more easily and create products that are much more dynamic and engaging.  The picture attached to this article shows Berwick Grammar Boys engaging in a study group in the library with computers that would also allow them to communicate with peers in other schools and even overseas… what an amazing time we live in!

But the internet can also provide us with stress and anxiety as well.  A recent study by mental health organization Headspace suggested that social media was a key contributor to mental health problems, providing students with opportunities to compare themselves unfavourably to others online and also loaning itself to online bullying, gossip and harassment.  You can access a short article about this here.

Certainly we cannot dismiss that a lot of education must take place around the appropriate use of online spaces.  Although schools run many programs on bullying, online bullying, social media and privacy, there are many things parents can do to ensure they are informed about their child’s online experience, and that they can monitor this.

A simple start is to ensure you connect with your child’s online accounts – whether this be Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.  This lets them know that they are accountable for behavior on these spaces and also allows you to see how others address them in public spaces.  Your behavior online will also set a good model for them – in fact you could talk about engaging with people online in a fashion that uses this – “What would Mum/ Dad/ Grandma/ my little brother think of this post?”

Although young people love the idea that online spaces are private, it is good to get them used to realizing that they are not, and that our digital footprint is not easily erased.  A record remains even of deleted posts and a simple screenshot immortalizes a bad decision forever.  Encourage them to consider this when posting – increasingly employers are conducting social media searches of prospective candidates and there are even companies out there whose sole function is to do this.  A silly decision now may have long term ramifications.

Thirdly, do not allow your child to go to bed with a device in their room.  Charge devices overnight in the kitchen.  This means they won’t be bothered by late night online chatter and will sleep better.

Open lines of communication and clear guidelines and boundaries help ensure these spaces are safe for everyone, and that the benefits outweigh the possible dangers.

For more parenting tips on social media, check out these links to reputable websites:

Ms Lauren Cook
Head of Senior Boys, Wellbeing