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The different ways in which teens and parents view social media

The different ways in which teens and parents view social media

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Social media is possibly responsible for the biggest generation gap between those born before the 1980’s and those born after. Like any generational difference, there can be a tendency for the older ones to be critical and concerned about the hard to fathom behaviour of the younger tribe members.

Twitters, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have literally gone viral, providing communication outlets for the vast majority of teenagers growing up in this part of the world. The elders are shaking their heads around these teens, muttering about loneliness, abuse, addiction, disconnection and many more accusatory views. What is the truth though? And is it possible to know the full picture from the outside?

It’s complicated

One woman has recently completed extensive research into this phenomenon and has released her findings in a book entitled ‘It’s Complicated’. Author dannah boyd (who deliberately spells her name without capitals) found that teens had very different perspectives to parents and professionals. Whilst parents voiced worries about social isolation, teens reported using social media as a way of being connected with their peers. They explained that as they were no longer aloud to walk to school alone, hang out in parks alone, play in the streets together, their options for physically meeting up with others were limited, so the virtual meeting zones provided welcome alternatives.

Cyber addicts?

The different ways in which teens and parents view social media  Teens are often referred to as cyber addicts, but the word ‘addiction’ is very loosely used these days. Rather than referring exclusively to acts that are compulsive, it is often used to describe activities that are highly enjoyed, such as gathering information and communicating with other people. Taking a step back, it might be seen that adults have a responsibility to use language accurately, rather than in a dramatic way in order to strengthen an argument about something that they don’t fully understand.

Online privacy

Parents worry about their teens exposing themselves and placing sensitive information on the Internet. When teens were asked about this, their response was that the people they were concerned about seeing their posts or tweets, were in fact their parents, not strangers. They were appalled when parents read online statuses that were only meant for the eyes of friends, claiming this is a similar invasion of privacy as a parent opening a letter addressed to their child, or reading their diary.

Overall, what the book points to is a large chasm between the views of parents and the views of teens about social media. Rather than making one group wrong or right, a more mature attitude would be to relate to both experiences and perspectives. If this attitude could be taken into discussions with teens about this issue, it may make it more possible to agree some boundaries that sit well with all concerned.




About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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