Should Teens Be Discussing Their Lives On-Line?

Parents today spend a lot of their time worrying about their teens and their use of technology. And where do they do it? Often it’s on-line. The Internet is full of parent groups talking about their kids and receiving support, advice and a willing ear. So why are we so surprised that our teens are doing the same thing? Today, we talk about that.

But before we take a look at that issue; what has Parenting Today been talking about and have you been listening? Between these regular e-zines, I often blog about issues that concern or interest me. For example,Does Your Workplace Honour Your Parenting Role?or Why Can Waiting for Service Be a Bonus or Should Modern Family Have Run the Cussing Episode?

All these topics have been posted since our last regular article.  If you want to know when there is a new blog, simply follow me on twitter.

I am looking forward to speaking at the Early Years Conference on the topic Making Sense of Physical Punishment and I will offering the Beyond Childcare program for my workplace-based clients.

And now, what about our teenagers?

Is On-Line the New Place for Teens to Hang Out?

Teenagers, busy becoming adults spend hours talking to each other. It used to be that the major concern for parents was how much time kids spent hanging out at the park, at the local restaurant, in the mall. When they weren’t worried about that, it was how much time they spend on the phone.

Now, it’s how much time they spend on-line. And according to Dr, Danah Boyd, senior researcher at Microsoft, an assistant professor at New York University and a widely respected figure in social media research, parents have it wrong. Kids today are simple doing what they have always done; they are just doing it on-line.

“Children’s ability to roam has basically been destroyed,” says Boyd.

So let’s take a look at what’s going on. Think about it, who did you talk to when you were a teen and how did it happen? I remember lots of time on the city bus going to and from school, a local restaurant called Andy’s, going for walks along the Glenmore Dam with a friend (in Calgary and before it was developed), and on the phone.  Teens have always congregated to chat, flirt, and study.

And teens have always kept their conversations with their peers private. Generations of parents have wondered what their kids are talking about. Well, just like us, some of it is silly, some benign, some about school and some serious issues about sexuality, divorce or financial problems.

Ironically, the Internet, which has so many parents concerned may just have more answers and support for kids that any past generation. For example, a bullied gay teen can go to YouTube and hear that it does get better and this may be just what he needs.

Of course, if a teen is in trouble we want them to go to the appropriate place for help. But again, this is not any different from what our parents wanted for us.

The point is, that the Internet is simply where kids hang out today. It is our job to pay attention, to listen to our kids when they do speak to us, to notice changes in our teen’s behavior which could indicate a problem.

Teens today are using technology the way we used face-to-face conversations.

The trick is to get past the anxiety about technology, learn how your kids are using it, be accessible to them and offer the same support and guidance you needed when you were a teen.


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One Response to Should Teens Be Discussing Their Lives On-Line?

  1. Dear Kathy,

    I love that you showed the positive side of all the online time — and that you brought to light Danah Boyd’s research (which I had not seen before). So often, I hear from adults that hanging online is a problem, and you showed the value of the connections (and the fact that they don’t make them in the same way as adults used to).

    Thanks for your post, I enjoyed reading it!

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